As has been plastered everywhere the last two days, the FBI raided the office of Trump lawyer and probable long-time fixer Michael Cohen (whether that fixing was ever illegal, we’ll find out I suppose).
In all this there’s been a desire among many conservatives to say what they are thinking without coming across as excusing Cohen. If Cohen did something wrong, he should be investigated for it and it’s completely possible that Michael Cohen deserves to go down for something. It’s also completely possible that the raid itself was above board and every box was checked to ensure nothing improper was done in executing it.
But all of this still leaves a bad taste in the mouths of a lot of traditional (non-Trump ecstatic) conservatives. Why?
Because the obvious double standard that’s been applied inside the DOJ and FBI is infuriating.
In that vein, who delivers a message is important.
If Sean Hannity complains about the inconsistencies of the FBI and DOJ in different cases, it’s easy to dismiss him as a rabid Trump supporter that’s just being partisan.
When Ben Shapiro, an avowed Trump critic and known conservative straight shooter does it, then maybe some on the other side will listen and I hope they do.
Per Ben’s short but to the point article from this morning, he starts with the first side of this. Namely, that Cohen and Trump may of indeed did something wrong.
That presents a problem. If Cohen paid off Daniels without Trump’s knowledge, that raises the question as to whether their agreement was binding. If not, then Trump may have been party to a violation of campaign finance law, since a $130,000 in-kind donation is well above any legal limit. And if Cohen and Trump coordinated that arrangement, none of their communications on the matter are subject to attorney-client privilege.
So, it’s quite possible that the FBI and DOJ may have just ensnared Cohen and, by extension, Trump, in a serious scandal.
This is all true. It’s unlikely unless they can prove a conspiracy to coordinate it as an in-kind donation, but it’s possible a violation of campaign finance reform is prosecuted and convicted.
To be fair, campaign finance violations are rarely taken seriously and have been committed by basically everyone to ever run for President in the past three decades at some level, usually unknowingly or unintentionally.
What’s more serious in my view is the bank fraud investigation against Cohen. We will have to see where that goes.
In this first context, the law is the law and I do not disapprove of the raid as long as it was done properly. If Cohen (or Trump) violated the law, then let it be shown and proven before a jury of their peers. Investigations and even prosecutions are not proof of guilt, though, and that should be remembered in all this.
Then Shapiro gets to what went through the minds of many (perhaps most) conservatives when this news came down.
But this raises another question: Where the hell were the FBI and DOJ when it came to Hillary Clinton?Trump himself has been enraged by the disparity between law enforcement’s treatment of Clinton and its treatment of him. He rightly points out that the FBI and DOJ worked to exonerate Clinton, with former FBI Director James Comey going so far as to change the definition of existing law to avoid recommending her indictment for mishandling classified material. And not only did then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch meet with former President Bill Clinton on a tarmac in the middle of the election cycle and the investigation of his wife; Lynch’s Department of Justice allowed Cheryl Mills, Hillary Clinton’s top aide, to claim attorney-client privilege. As Andrew McCarthy of National Review pointed out at the time, Mills was involved in the scrubbing of over 30,000 emails, yet the DOJ “indulged her attorney-client privilege claim, which frustrated the FBI’s ability to question her on a key aspect of the investigation.” Furthermore, Mills was allowed to sit in on Clinton’s interview with the FBI as Clinton’s lawyer.
And herein lies the problem for the DOJ and the FBI. Let’s assume, for a moment, that everything they’re doing now is totally honest and aboveboard — that there’s no attempt to “get” President Trump and they’re just following where the evidence leads. Many conservatives will rightly point to the DOJ and FBI treatment of Hillary Clinton, and state that the agencies ought to be consistent in their application of the law and leave Trump alone.
And that is it in a nutshell.
What’s happening to Trump isn’t just about Trump. There’s a very real, valid frustration with how differently legal standards are being applied today compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016.
Can you imagine Robert Mueller giving Michael Cohen immunity and letting him sit in on an interview with Trump? Can you imagine the FBI not recording or even transcribing the interview? Does anyone think the law would be re-written on the fly by the prosecuting authority to ensure no charges are brought against Trump? Would Trump get to choose what he feels like turning over to the investigative authorities based on his own interpretation the way Hillary did? The answer to all of these is “of course not.”
On the topic of campaign finance violations, Democrat John Edwards literally coordinated campaign donors to pay for the silence of his mistress who he had impregnated. That was not found to be a campaign finance violation.
It would be a mistake to assume that pointing out double standards is just an attempt to clear Trump. It’s not. There’s logical, real anger and distrust of our federal law enforcement because of the radically different standards that were applied in these cases.
Instead of dismissing these issues as some Trump-lover conspiracy, Ben reinforces that it is right to point these matters out. As conservatives, we should continue to point it out. The FBI and DOJ should ultimately be held accountable for their actions.
That doesn’t mean they should look past possible Trump transgressions in the present to make it all even stevens, but there needs to be a reckoning for how they handled the Hillary Clinton investigation and that has not actually happened yet.
This includes James Comey and Loretta Lynch, who may not be punishable via government code anymore but who’s unethical acts should be called out.
Treating James Comey as some kind of untouchable, saintly figure is part of the problem. Pretending that Andrew McCabe was anything other than a corrupt figure just because he wrote an anti-Trump op-ed is part of the problem. Their actions should be exposed and excoriated publicly, even if it means you don’t get to be on a perfectly defined “side” anymore where by you are either always for or against Trump.
I won’t post the rest of the article due to fair use policies, but Ben wraps up his thoughts by pointing out that the FBI and DOJ better have their ducks in a row here. The reasons for that are obvious. If stuff starts illegally leaking that’s harmful to Trump, if it turns out the warrant is weak, etc. then whatever bit of trust left in these agencies is going to evaporate.
That would be bad for the country but it also wouldn’t be the fault of law-abiding citizens. The blame for that would fall squarely on these bureaucracies. Americans want to feel like there’s one legal system that holds everyone equally accountable. We simply have not had that the last few years in regards to these two cases.