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Thread: A Tale of Two Investigations

  1. #1
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    A Tale of Two Investigations

    Every time I hear a conservative label the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt," my mind goes immediately to the Ken Starr investigation, and how almost no conservatives spoke up against what was a very obvious partisan witch hunt.

    Here's a quick comparison, to give you a sense for how very different the two investigations are.

    (1) Background.

    The questions underlying the Whitewater investigation were low-stakes. It involved a small (around $200k) real estate deal that the Clintons had gone in on with some friends back in the late 1970s.... and the speculation that maybe Bill Clinton might have used his office to try to cut his losses when a shift in interest rates made the investment a money-loser.

    By comparison, the questions underlying the Mueller investigation are very high-stakes. It involves efforts by a hostile superpower to subvert a US presidential election, and the web of ties between that superpower and a list of high-ranking people within one of the political campaigns.

    (2) Cause for suspicion.

    In the case of Whitewater, there was no particular reason to be suspicious of the Clintons, other than the fact that it was a small state in the 1970s and it didn't seem inherently implausible that a powerful state official might abuse his office to protect himself from investment losses. But by the time of Clinton's presidency, there'd already been an investigation by the Resolution Trust Corporation that had found no sign of any wrongdoing by the Clintons.

    In the case of Russiagate, by comparison, all our nation's intelligence services have agreed that Russia interfered with the election, and most agreed they did so with the goal of getting Trump elected. Moreover, there has already been enough evidence of that interference to support a long list of indictments of the alleged Russian conspirators. The extent of involvement of top members of the Trump campaign is still an open question, but there have been multiple guilty pleas, indictments, and firings there, as well. Plus, Trump has been acting the way you'd expect a guilty person to act, by attempting to obstruct the investigation at every step, and top members of his team have lied repeatedly about Russian ties in sworn testimony or signed legal documents.

    (3) Reason each investigator was appointed.

    Robert Fiske, a broadly respected Republican former US attorney, had been appointed to investigate Whitewater by Janet Reno, with the idea that his party affiliation and background would give the results of his investigation credibility with Republicans that wouldn't be the case if the investigation had been done in-house by a Democrat like Reno. Fiske investigated for six months and concluded that Clinton had done nothing wrong with regard to Whitewater. For the Republicans, this was an unacceptable fact, and so they replaced Fiske with an independent counsel, Ken Starr, who could be counted on to use the office as a partisan tool for the GOP, to damage Clinton by any means necessary.

    In the case of the Russia investigation, things started out as an investigation led by a Republican head of the FBI, Comey, working under a Republican AG, Sessions. However, Sessions was personally implicated by his lies under oath to Congress about his own communications with Russian agents, and had to recuse himself, and then Comey was fired by Trump for "this Russia thing" after he'd refused to back off Trump's crony, Flynn, at Trump's request. So, another Republican, Mueller, was put in charge of looking into the matter, reporting up to yet another Republican, Rosenstein.

    (4) Partisan nature.

    As indicated above, the investigation of Whitewater was effectively a partisan investigation from the start -- both Fiske and Starr were Republicans, and starting in 1995, the Congressional bodies with oversight authority were also in the hands of Republicans. Moreover, the federal judiciary was dominated by Republicans (7-to-2 on the Supreme Court, for example).

    The Russia investigation, by comparison, is essentially an in-house investigation of the matter by the president's own party. The former and current FBI heads are Republicans, the AG and Deputy AG are Republicans, the special counsel is a Republican, the Congressional bodies with oversight authority are controlled by the Republicans, and the federal judiciary still tilts to the Republicans. There's a reasonable concern that partisan factors might result in crimes by the administration being covered up by his party-mates heading up the investigation, but no reasonable concern that there will be a partisan drive to take the administration down.

    (5) Scope.

    The Starr investigation was infamous for its range. Early in the process it was clear that --as had already been shown by independent investigators by the Resolution Trust Corporation, and by Fiske -- Starr wasn't going to find any dirt on the Clintons regarding the supposed topic of his investigation. But, the GOP had effectively fired Fiske for telling them that, so Starr knew "no" wasn't an acceptable answer. As such, he went on a fishing expedition. He trawled through every aspect of the lives of the Clintons, spanning decades, in hopes of finding some criminal conduct -- or at least something personally embarrassing enough to make the political investment worthwhile. His team spent millions of dollars looking into matters as diverse as the First Lady's old law career, staffing decisions at the White House's Travel Office, and commodity trades. But despite many years of work and a cost of around $80 million, Starr could find nothing at all, and so he had to settle for issuing a report that essentially was a piece of smut discussing the president's consensual sex life.

    The Mueller investigation, thus far, has a laser focus. He is only looking into involvement of Russians in the 2016 election, and ties between the Russians and top members of the Trump campaign. When he encounters evidence of law breaking that doesn't fit that description, he doesn't attempt to expand the scope of his work, but instead just refers the matter to other law enforcement personnel, and leaves to their discretion the decision of whether or not to follow up on it (e.g., the Cohen/Clifford matters).

    One of those two things deserves the title of "Witch Hunt." It's definitely not the Mueller investigation.
    Last edited by Arkady; 8th June 2018 at 09:30 AM.

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    In a way, I suppose you have to be impressed by the audacity of the Republican approach to this. In a sane world, the discussion would be about whether this investigation has credibility given the extreme tilt it has in favor of the president's own party. It has involved two Republicans heading up the FBI, a Republican AG, a Republican Deputy AG, a Republican special prosecutor, Republican majorities running interference for the president on all the relevant Congressional committees, and an arch-conservative Supreme Court that could well be standing by ready to make partisan rulings in his favor. Yet, because of the unhinged aggression of Trump and the Republicans, the media is instead dutifully pursuing the angle of whether or not the investigation is biased AGAINST him. If, in fact, the fix is in to cover up crimes by Trump, this is the perfect cover for that, because the public will be prepped to think of it in terms of a liberal witch-hunt coming up empty, rather than in terms of a bunch of lifelong Republicans insisting their fellow Republican is innocent of any wrongdoing.

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    Southern Strategy Liberal OldGaffer's Avatar
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    Do not expect much response from the right on this topic, they really do not want to compare the two investigations.
    Last edited by OldGaffer; 8th June 2018 at 08:19 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldGaffer View Post
    Do not expect much response from the right on this topic, they rally do not want to compare the two investigations.
    Too bad. I find it really interesting. The Starr investigation was an example of exactly what not to do when it comes to looking into alleged misconduct by a president -- it was a free-roaming, nakedly partisan investigation dishonestly justified by trivial allegations. Yet I honestly can't remember any major Republican or conservative speaking out against it, at the time. That makes them look so hypocritical when they now shriek about an investigation that, at this point, looks like a model case for how to conduct an investigation -- it's narrow, non-partisan, and justified by extremely serious allegations.
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    Lets not forget the most egregious example of the witch hunt. The 9 Benghazi investigations to keep the channel open until a "crime" could be found.

    Benghazi begot Email server.

    Everyone knows the real reason Clinton was under constant investigations...The business model was admitted to.
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    Dick with my Buzz...Try DebateDrone's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arkady View Post
    Too bad. I find it really interesting. The Starr investigation was an example of exactly what not to do when it comes to looking into alleged misconduct by a president -- it was a free-roaming, nakedly partisan investigation dishonestly justified by trivial allegations. Yet I honestly can't remember any major Republican or conservative speaking out against it, at the time. That makes them look so hypocritical when they now shriek about an investigation that, at this point, looks like a model case for how to conduct an investigation -- it's narrow, non-partisan, and justified by extremely serious allegations.
    The GOP did not complain because they invented the process. You can't really expect the architects to criticize their creation.

    Dr. Frankenstein loved his monster.

    GOP = Abby Normal
    Last edited by DebateDrone; 8th June 2018 at 07:51 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DebateDrone View Post
    Lets not forget the most egregious example of the witch hunt. The 9 Benghazi investigations to keep the channel open until a "crime" could be found.

    Benghazi begot Email server.

    Everyone knows the real reason Clinton was under constant investigations...The business model was admitted to.
    Yes. That's a really good example. There was never any indication of wrongdoing by Clinton with regard to Benghazi, and there was ample past precedent for how to investigate a deadly attack on a US diplomatic facility (which attacks happen every couple years). It should have been handled by apolitical security experts looking for "lessons learned" to improve future security. Instead, it was essentially turned into a standing investigation for four straight years, to keep the matter alive until the next election, run by Republican politicians focused on trying to find some sort of personal error by Hillary Clinton.

    The strategy worked. Although they never managed to find any wrongdoing by her related to Benghazi, they were able to use that sham investigation to look into countless other potential areas of vulnerability for her upcoming campaign, and eventually settled on making believe her use of private email for work was a scandal. In the long run, nothing came of that, either, since it was no big deal.... but the point was never to make something stick in the long-run. The point was to control the news cycle, by keeping the corporate outlets focused on negative speculation about Clinton right up to the very end of the election. Even that had seemed to fail, since the FBI had to grudgingly admit they had no evidence of criminal conduct, and the polls showed Comey's attempt to smear her personally in his announcement hadn't done enough damage to elect Trump as he'd intended. But that's the thing about being completely unburdened by any ethics. All the Republicans had to do is bide their time until shortly before the election, then have Comey seize the news cycle one last time with wholly baseless speculation that some newly found emails might have evidence of wrongdoing by Clinton. The polls show that did the trick, knocking her down more than enough to account for Trump's margin of victory in the key swing states.

    I don't know what to do about this. As long as the Republicans remain this dirty and the American people remain this stupid, it's going to keep happening.
    Last edited by Arkady; 8th June 2018 at 09:31 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DebateDrone View Post
    The GOP did not complain because they invented the process. You can't really expect the architects to criticize their creation.

    Dr. Frankenstein loved his monster.

    GOP = Abby Normal
    True, I suppose. You'd think there would have been some principled conservatives, though, who'd have spoken up against that disgusting process. But I guess there just aren't principled conservatives any more. There are unprincipled conservatives who submit totally to Trump, and there are unprincipled conservatives who occasionally stand up to Trump, but with regard to the misbehavior of more mainline Republicans, like those behind the Clinton witch-hunts, you'd be hard pressed to find any conservatives with strong enough principles to object.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DebateDrone View Post
    Dr. Frankenstein loved his monster.

    GOP = Abby Normal

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    WARNING

    Thread moved to Political Discussion from Current Events.


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