A couple of months ago, President Obama said this on Fox News Sunday: “Here’s what I know, Hillary Clinton was an outstanding Secretary of State. She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy.” Obama went on to “guarantee” he would not interfere with the ongoing Justice Department and FBI investigation into Clinton’s private email server.
Obama was later criticized for appearing to downplay Clinton’s exclusive use of a private server to conduct government business while she was Secretary of State, thereby exposing classified information to hackers and foreign enemies. Some reporters said Obama’s ill-advised remarks sent a dog whistle to the U.S. Justice and FBI investigators that any indictment of Clinton would be unacceptable to him, thereby undercutting their attempts to seek justice in the Clinton case. It is a time-honored tradition that presidents should never say anything that would undermine or appear to undermine a pending criminal investigation, especially one that involves a cabinet official who had served in his administration.
Nonetheless, Obama is expected to give Hillary Clinton, the Democratic Party presidential nominee-in-waiting, a full-throated endorsement. It would be a clear contradiction for Obama to endorse the target of a law enforcement investigation, while claiming not to interfere with the criminal probe. It appears the dog whistle he sent two months ago fell on deaf ears since the FBI has pressed on with its investigation. The other week, the State Department’s Inspector General issued a scathing report concerning Clinton’s unauthorized use of a private server that put to a lie Clinton’s protests of innocence. Apparently, the State Department’s IG didn’t get the president’s memo, nor did a federal judge in a Judicial Watch lawsuit who agreed that the plaintiffs could take depositions from Clinton’s aides and perhaps Clinton herself. Such intransigence is unacceptable to Obama, who is used to issuing executive orders that bypass congress’s role as a separate branch of government. It is embarrassing to him when he can sidestep congress with impunity, but he can’t seem to control or muzzle officials within his own administration.
To make his point, loud and clear, the president plans to endorse Clinton. Any pain-in-the-ass official in his administration, who doesn’t get the message to stand down at that point, is either politically tone deaf or has no sense of self-preservation. After all, what is more important in Obama’s eyes – the rule of law or the preservation of his legacy? It is unprecedented to have the nominee of a political party under an active criminal investigation. And it is even more unprecedented to have a sitting president endorse such a candidate. What U.S. attorney or FBI investigator would not be cowed into submission or think twice when he sees his boss, the President of the U.S., on the campaign trail with the target of an ongoing investigation? Perhaps that explains why the Clinton investigation never seems to end.
Justice delayed is justice denied. With the president about to throw his weight behind Clinton, there may be no justice at all.
If President Obama sees fit to put his heavy thumb on the scale of justice, it can be expected that his political opponents will cry “cover-up” and “obstruction of justice” at top of their lungs. It would be political malpractice to do otherwise. And those cries of cover-up will be justified because a sitting president decided to throw a spanner into the wheels of justice. By declaring his support for Hillary Clinton, Obama will effectively intimidate federal officials and investigators assigned to the Clinton case.
Perhaps, the president believes no one will notice that he violated his oath of office to uphold the law. Maybe he thinks that oath doesn’t apply during a presidential election. After all, the president is also the leader of his political party. Therefore, isn’t he justified to do just that – lead his party by endorsing the party’s nominee to succeed him?
Actually, the answer is no. He is not justified because it would be a conflict of interest. And, yes, Americans do notice when someone, who is politically-connected like Hillary Clinton, is placed above the law that applies to the rest of us. And, yes, Americans do notice when a president is more interested in his personal legacy than equal justice for all.
President Obama will soon make his choice. If he chooses politics over the rule of law by endorsing Hillary Clinton, he will turn our justice system on its head.
Let’s see how well that calculation works out for him and America.