The stunning defeat of the “skinny repeal” health care plan in the U.S. Senate early this morning has sparked a cautious round of optimism about the revival of bipartisanship in Washington. The folks pushing this idea argue that having failed to end or replace Obamacare on its own, the Republican majority has no choice but to sit down with Democrats to write a new health care bill that will address the admitted imperfections of the Affordable Care Act.
But if the door to comity has cracked open in the Senate, it remains shut and locked tight in the House of Representatives. Indeed, a new padlock was added on Thursday as a band of Republicans led by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-VA, called on the Justice Department to launch an investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
This is a bad idea that even President Trump discarded after defeating Clinton in the November election. Flush with victory, Trump dropped his campaign cries of “lock her up,” and made a point of welcoming both Hillary and former President Bill Clinton to the traditional Inauguration Day luncheon in the Capitol.
But with special prosecutor Robert Mueller snagging headlines as he aggressively investigates the Trump campaign’s possible collusion in Russian efforts to interfere in the election, the Republicans are feeling less magnanimous.
Trump has taken to Twitter to renew suggestions that Clinton should be a target for Justice Department scrutiny. And on Thursday, in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, Goodlatte and company argued for appointment of a second special counsel with Mueller-like authority to pursue the former first lady and secretary of state.
The Goodlatte letter is breathtakingly duplicitous, launching a nakedly political attack on Clinton while complaining that “political gamesmanship continues to saturate anything and everything associated with reactions to President Trump’s executive decisions.” It suggests that the second special prosecutor pursue a list of grievances or potential grievances against Clinton that in most cases have either already been investigated or would not be criminal if they occurred.
To cite just a couple of examples, the letter wants the second special counsel to look into FBI and Justice Department “investigative decisions related to former Secretary Clinton’s email investigation” and to examine “the apparent failure of DOJ to empanel a grand jury to investigate allegations of mishandling of classified information by Hillary Clinton and her associates.”
Reasonable people can disagree over the wisdom of the Justice Department’s decisions about Clinton’s emails and whether a grand jury should have been convened to examine her handling of classified data. But those are administrative, not criminal, matters; they’re not even close to something that would warrant the appointment of a special counsel, with prosecutorial power.
America has a long and valuable tradition of peacefully transferring power from one party to another, one administration to another, after each election. Goodlatte and his 19 co-signers would cast that aside and use the criminal justice system to rekindle political fights with Clinton. That’s the sort of thing we expect from faux democracies, like Russia, where election losers can expect to be thrown in jail, or worse.
Office: Common Cause National
Issues: Voting and Elections