We Don’t Need a Special Counsel to Investigate the Clinton Foundation

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.