Forget those text messages between Peter Strzok and Lisa Page of the FBI. Never mind those notes former FBI director James Comey leaked to the New York Times in hopes of getting a special counsel appointed against President Trump.
Also, forget the FISA warrants based on a Hillary Clinton campaign document, the deputy attorney general plotting to wear a wire in an attempt to remove Trump through the 25th Amendment or news, revealed this week, at the acting head of the FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into the president because he was angry the president had fired his boss.
No, Trump is doing something extraordinary, something not even Richard Nixon dared to do. He is investigating the investigators.
That was the point of a story in Time magazine this week by Tessa Berenson entitled “How the Republican Response to the Mueller Investigation Breaks With History.”
Nixon “raised questions about the partisan leanings of investigators and sought to undermine some of their conclusions,” Berenson wrote in her lead.
“But as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election progressed over the last two years, GOP lawmakers sought to defend President Donald Trump in part by digging into the investigation itself, something historians say is unprecedented in American politics.”
Trump and his allies have fought vigorously against what they say is a hoax of an investigation into collusion between his 2016 campaign and subsequent administration and the Russian government and whether he obstructed justice by firing Comey.
Citing a New York Times report, Berenson wrote: “The president’s allies in Congress have opened investigations into the FBI’s handling of investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, received private texts from the Justice Department between two FBI officials involved in the Russian case, gone after sensitive Justice Department documents about the start of the investigation and trusted informants, and threatened to hold the deputy attorney general in contempt of Congress for refusing to provide certain documents.”
The FBI’s handling of the Clinton email investigations was controversial before Trump was elected. Comey said no reasonable prosecutor would press charges against her even though he had not interviewed her or dozens of other witnesses at that point.
The private texts between Strzok and Page were discovered by the Democrat-appointed inspector general of the Department of Justice, who turned them over to Mueller, who, after waiting for weeks, dismissed the two agents, who were carrying on an affair, for being biased. The Justice Department documents sought provided insight on who decided to start these investigations and based on what information.
But these aren’t legitimate questions, according to Berenson. “Historians say this marks a new era of hyperpartisanship that will likely erode trust in traditionally independent law enforcement agencies.”
She then quotes Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton, saying, “What Republicans have done recently is to take the whole thing to a totally new level, in that they have not just said that the Congress is being pushed by partisan incentives, but they’ve really gone hard after the law enforcement institutions.”
This amounts to “partisanship on steroids in terms of how you defend a president who is being investigated. It’s not just they’re even saying this on television. They’ve been investigating. They’ve been trying to use oversight as an arm of the president’s own agenda.”
Berenson pointed to Nixon again and accusations during Watergate that special counsel Archibald Cox’s staff was mostly Democrats. Trump has noted that all of Mueller’s investigators and attorneys are Democrats and many contributed to Clinton’s campaign.
“Cox noted at the time that about half of the top men in his department had served under Republican attorneys general; while Mueller himself is a registered Republican.”