The FBI’s reputation has sunk so low under the Obama administration that its initials seem to stand for: The Fix Be In. The bureau’s no-hurry investigation into Hillary Clinton’s deleted State Department emails seemed engineered to see no evil. Meanwhile, the New York Times reports that Attorney General Loretta Lynch is replacing FBI agents and prosecutors who oppose charging New York police in the chokehold death of Eric Garner (because they aren’t sure the police committed a crime and don’t think they can get a conviction) with staff who want to throw the book at NYPD.
Pundits have voiced their fear that Donald Trump would use the Justice Department to go after his political enemies — and rightly so after Trump said he would appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton and send her to jail. (So much for the presumption of innocence.) How can these same critics not see how the Obama Department of Justice has turned into a political arm of the Democratic Party?
Consider the Clinton investigation. The FBI granted limited immunity to five Clinton aides, including Paul Combetta, who deleted Clinton emails in March 2015 after Congress had subpoenaed her records. FBI agents waited a year before they questioned Clinton in July for an hour and a half. Shortly thereafter, Director James Comey announced there would be no indictment in the case; even though Clinton did not hand over “several thousand” work emails to the State Department, there was no proof of “intentional misconduct.”
Lynch didn’t help herself when she met privately with former President Bill Clinton on a Phoenix tarmac on July 2, while the investigation was under way. Lynch later admitted the meeting “cast a shadow” on her decision-making on the case, but assured the public she would “be accepting” the FBI prosecutors’ recommendation.
New York police should be so lucky. As the Times reported, FBI officials in New York oppose bringing charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo and others involved in the 2014 arrest of Eric Garner, 43, for selling bootleg cigarettes. Pantaleo wrapped an arm around Garner’s neck. Garner protested, “I can’t breathe.” (After an ambulance arrived, Garner had a heart attack.) It is painful to watch video of the fateful arrest, but a state grand jury saw the video, heard Pantaleo testify that he did not mean to use a chokehold, and chose not to bring charges in December 2014. The grand jury did not see intentional misconduct.
Brooklyn-based FBI officials who investigated Garner’s death oppose prosecuting Pantaleo and his fellow officers. Rather than heed them, Lynch is steering the case toward Washington-based staff in the Justice Department’s civil rights division who want to prosecute the arresting officers.
Clinton gets every consideration; NYPD gets every doubt. Pantaleo’s attorney Stuart London told the Times, “In our system of justice, politics should never take the place of rule of law.” That’s a quaint thought, but in this Obama administration there is a clear double standard. The bar is so unreasonably high that there is no way prosecutors can establish if Clinton meant to break the law. However, the Justice Department has few qualms about presuming the worst about beat cops.
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