A group of House Republicans has taken up this cause and is pushing for the appointment of a special counsel. In essence, it is a tit-for-tat maneuver: There is a special-counsel probing Trump ties to Russia, they reason, so why not a special-counsel to probe Clinton ties to Russia?
.. This suggests a basic misunderstanding about what triggers a special-counsel investigation: There must be potential offenses that warrant investigation as to which the Justice Department has a conflict of interest that would make its conducting the investigation inappropriate.
.. Recall that Robert Mueller was appointed to take over a counterintelligence investigation, not to investigate specific crimes.
.. There is no structural reason to believe the Justice Department is unable to conduct a fair investigation of the Clinton Foundation. (There may be a credibility problem, which we’ll get to momentarily.)
.. It was widely reported a year ago that the FBI was looking into Clinton Foundation activities — I wrote about it, here, when it was reported that the Obama Justice Department was blocking the bureau from access to key evidence.
.. As the Times points out, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from matters related to the 2016 election, and that recusal is apparently being expansively construed to include matters related to the Democratic nominee, Mrs. Clinton,
.. In the event, such conflicts have little bearing on how cases are handled because the investigation is led by the FBI with the assistance of a district U.S. attorney’s office that does not have a conflict.
.. All of that said, there is a problem here — just not a problem that requires a special counsel. It’s that the president and congressional Republicans are ratcheting up political pressure for prosecutorial action. Ultimately, this will undermine — perhaps fatally — any investigation the Justice Department may be doing. Inadvertently, the president and his congressional allies are giving any eventual defendants a powerful claim that they were charged because of political considerations rather than evidence of wrongdoing.
.. the president’s foolish commentary has already negatively affected the court-martial of Bowe Bergdahl, and it has complicated the possible filing of capital murder charges against Sayfullo Saipov, the West Side Highway jihadist. When political officials prod law-enforcement officials on individual cases, they hurt the prosecution.
Trump predicted Bannon would be “a tough and smart new voice at @BreitbartNews . . . maybe even better than ever before,” adding: “Fake News needs the competition!”
.. Several friends and former co-workers said that they expect Bannon to use the platform to attack his political opponents, including those he has derided as “globalists” and Democrats inside the White House.
“I think Steve is going to be more effective on the outside,” said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union and a longtime friend of Bannon. “On the outside, if you are well-funded and you are feared and you have a platform, you are going to be a power player. Steve has all of that in spades.”
.. Trump and Bannon associates also expect Bannon to continue to have Trump’s ear, as has been the case with some other fired staffers such as Corey Lewandowksi, Trump’s first campaign manager, who periodically shows up at the White House.
“With Donald Trump, once he likes you, you’re either in his inner orbit, or you’re in his outer orbit,” said Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and a member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla. “You never leave altogether.”
.. “What it does not do is remove the person who’s creating the most drama in the White House, and that’s Donald Trump,” the strategist added. “He’s going to continue to do what he’s going to do.”
.. On most of these issues, there is no evident strategy among Republicans on either side of Pennsylvania Avenue for bridging divisions and bringing Trump and congressional Republicans together.
.. Trump has grown increasingly unhappy with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and rarely mentions House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) in private conversations, blaming both for his legislative troubles
.. a flurry of bravado-filled interviews with Bannon appeared on various websites, including one in which he said he felt as if “I’ve got my hands back on my weapons” and was prepared to “crush the opposition.”
.. Advisers to senior congressional Republicans were taken aback that none of the combative language was countered by the White House.
“They just sat out there,” said one Republican aide. “That told me everything about whether the White House actually cares about making clear it’s on our side.”
.. Ever since Priebus left, many Republican officials have found it harder to engage the White House and to feel assured that the administration “understands the language of Republicans,”