Surely this is a long-lost script from an episode of House of Cards, not real life. Surely, the Attorney General of the United States wouldn’t invite Bill Clinton onto her private plane while his spouse is the subject of a DOJ criminal investigation. Especially since the president has already endorsed and is actively campaigning for Clinton at the same time that his Justice Department is determining if she should be prosecuted for mishandling classified information. It’s so ridiculous and farfetched that maybe I have it all wrong. It’s not a House of Cards script they stole this plot from, it’s Veep.
“I did see President Clinton at the Phoenix airport as I was leaving, and he spoke to myself and my husband on the plane,” AG Loretta Lynch told reporters. “Our conversation was a great deal about his grandchildren. It was primarily social and about our travels.”
If it was primarily social then what was it secondarily?
It’s a question that Lynch will probably never answer, even though her subsequent comments suggest Lynch knows that there will be no wriggling out of this mess. She didn’t even bother denying that meeting with a well-connected family member of someone under investigation is optically terrible.
“I certainly wouldn’t do it again because I think it has cast this shadow over what is should not, over what it will not touch, Lynch said, adding, “It’s important to make it clear that that meeting with President Clinton does not have a bearing on how this matter will be reviewed and resolved.”
Did Clinton attempt to pressure, or sway Lynch into not prosecuting his wife? We’ll never know. But as Ed Rogers writes for The Washington Post, it’s somewhat beside the point:
Just having the meeting sent a clear signal that the attorney general is cozy with the Clintons. In case career-minded FBI agents weren’t already intimidated by President Obama inserting himself into the investigation by declaring that Clinton’s private email server didn’t “jeopardize America’s national security,” the message was sent by this meeting: Any ambitious FBI agent hoping for a promotion in a potential Clinton administration can only hurt themselves by going against the wishes of the Clintons’ pal, Lynch. …
But it’s just this kind of coziness that has infuriated voters. Voters hate “insider deals,” especially when they are so flagrant. In case voters needed to be reminded the rules don’t apply to the Clintons, there couldn’t have been a better way to refresh what they have already learned time and time again. It’s this kind of insulting behavior that fuels rage at the status quo.
This type of relationship is part and parcel of why Republicans have long called for Lynch to recuse herself from the Clinton case. It’s simply impossible for a political appointee of President Obama to act impartially in a case that could very well decide the election of his successor. Lynch has refused to go that far, but she did attempt to reestablish some distance. The New York Times reported Friday that Lynch “will accept whatever recommendation career prosecutors and the F.B.I. director make about whether to bring charges related to Hillary Clinton’s personal email server.”
And yet, even that seemingly straightforward statement, has since received an important qualification. Mark Halperin reports for Bloomberg:
At the same time, Lynch seemed to contradict her own suggestion that she would automatically accept the findings of career prosecutors when she said the Clinton e-mail case would be “handled like any other.” Earlier Friday, a top Justice Department official told Bloomberg that Lynch would reserve her right to overrule prosecutors’ recommendation — an option attorneys general typically possess, but rarely use, in criminal cases.
“I fully expect to accept their recommendations,” Lynch said Friday at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado. “The final determination for how to proceed will be contained in the recommendations in the report.”
Well which is it? Will she accept the recommendations, whatever they are? Or will she reserve the right to overrule them? Her comments in response to a question about why she refused to recuse herself seem telling here.
“A recusal would mean that I wouldn’t even be briefed on what the findings were, or what the actions going forward would be,” Lynch responded. “While I don’t have a role in those findings and coming up with those findings or making recommendations as to how to go forward, I’ll be briefed on it and I will be accepting their recommendations.
Selina Meyer couldn’t have said it better (or more confidently contradictory) than that.