Remember last year? Before the election? Remember the time then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and former President Bill Clinton had a friendly chat on an airport tarmac? Do you remember what happened then?
Lynch said she and Clinton talked only of grandchildren, golf, and their respective travels, but the fact that the two spoke privately at all was enough to rekindle concerns about a possible conflict of interest. Republicans have long called into question the ability of a Democratic-led Department of Justice to conduct an independent investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, based inside her Chappaqua, New York, home, during her tenure as secretary of state.
David Axelrod, a former top aide to President Barack Obama, tweeted that he took Lynch and the former president “at their word” that the Justice Department’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s email server did not come up, “but foolish to create such optics.”
And then this happened:
The government watchdog group Judicial Watch has filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit against the Department of Justice (DOJ) seeking all records its has on the June 27, 2016 meeting between President Bill Clinton and then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch in her airplane, a meeting that occurred while the FBI was investigating Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, a potential national security crime.
“The infamous tarmac meeting between President Clinton and AG Lynch is a vivid example of why many Americans believe the Obama administration’s criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton was rigged,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a statement released today. “Now it will be up to Attorney General Sessions at the Trump Justice Department to finally shed some light on this subversion of justice.”
And then this happened:
WASHINGTON — Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, conceding that her airport meeting with former President Bill Clinton this week had cast a shadow over the federal investigation of Hillary Clinton’s personal email account, said Friday that she would accept whatever recommendations career prosecutors and the F.B.I. director made about whether to bring charges in the case.
It fell to Comey, then, to make the final decision about prosecuting Hillary Clinton. And his decision to explain the decision not to prosecute set off a chain of events that reverberates to this very day.
Now: Republicans are saying that if President Trump asked Jim Comey to take it easy on Donald Trump, that it was a joke.
But: If the mere act of two people meeting was enough to raise doubts about the fairness of justice being applied in a case, why would you as president ever raise the topic of a criminal case with the FBI director, let alone make a “joke” that would be so easily understood as maybe-not-a-joke?*
*(I have an 8-year-old boy. He tries telling me he was “joking” when he makes an out-of-line comment, too. We don’t buy it coming from him, either.)
Bill Clinton’s crossing of the line probably helped cost his wife the presidency. Republicans demanded that standards be applied. OK. Fine. Good. The question is, can Republicans live with same standards of conduct being applied to Donald Trump?
Probably not. But they’re going to have to.