The difference between Democrats and Republicans is that Republicans actually do, despite the polarized political climate, hold some principles that transcend their partisan agenda.
Which is why you see some concern emanating from the GOP about whether President Trump tried to obstruct the investigation into ties between his advisors and the Russians, and why you saw absolutely none out of any Democrats the times Barack Obama acted to obstruct justice. And of course, no outrage then from the mainstream media either.
Obama sent strong signals to police and the judiciary about how he wanted certain cases resolved. While he was more subtle about it than the bull-in-a-china-shop Trump, his desires were no less clear.
Let’s start with the most egregious example, his attempt on April 10, 2016, to influence the decision on whether to prosecute Hillary Clinton for mishandling classified information by setting up her own email server.
First, knowing that prosecutors choose which cases to pursue and which not to, even if there technically is criminality, Obama attempted to mitigate the transgression.
“She would never intentionally put America in any kind of jeopardy,” Obama told Chris Wallace of Fox News. “What I also know is that there’s classified and then there’s classified. There’s stuff that is really top secret top secret, and then there’s stuff that is being presented to the president or the secretary of state that you may not want on the transom or going out over the wire, but is basically stuff you can get in open sources.”
Next, he addressed the issue of intent and her loyalty to the country, noting her commitment to service.
“I continue to believe she has not jeopardized America’s national security,” Obama said. “Now what I’ve also said, and she’s acknowledged, is there’s a carelessness in terms of managing emails that she has owned and she has owned and she recognizes. But I also think it is important to keep this in perspective. This is somebody who served her country for four years as Secretary of State and did an outstanding job.”
Obama is a smart guy and an attorney. He knew exactly what he was doing with his Oh, just careless Hillary shtick.
In July, after former Attorney General Lynch had handed off the decision to him because she failed to resist Bill Clinton’s effort to obstruct justice, former FBI Director James Comey struck some of the same themes as Obama with respect to loyalty and intent.
Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent. Responsible decisions also consider the context of a person’s actions, and how similar situations have been handled in the past.
In looking back at our investigations into mishandling or removal of classified information, we cannot find a case that would support bringing criminal charges on these facts. All the cases prosecuted involved some combination of: clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information; or vast quantities of materials exposed in such a way as to support an inference of intentional misconduct; or indications of disloyalty to the United States; or efforts to obstruct justice. We do not see those things here.
Comey even echoed Obama’s choice of words, saying Clinton had been “extremely careless.”
In August 2014, Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson killed 18-year-old Michael Brown. Whether Wilson acted justifiably would have to be investigated, but that didn’t stop Obama from repeatedly suggesting how much he cared about Brown and his family, which had to weigh on prosecutors.
A few days after the shooting, Obama expressed empathy for Brown’s family and referred to him affectionally as “this young man”:
The death of Michael Brown is heartbreaking, and Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to his family and his community at this very difficult time.
As Attorney General Holder has indicated, the Department of Justice is investigating the situation along with local officials, and they will continue to direct resources to the case as needed.
I know the events of the past few days have prompted strong passions, but as details unfold, I urge everyone in Ferguson, Missouri, and across the country, to remember this young man through reflection and understanding. We should comfort each other and talk with one another in a way that heals, not in a way that wounds. Along with our prayers, that’s what Michael and his family, and our broader American community, deserve.
The next month, at the Congressional Black Caucus Awards Dinner, Obama said the shooting had “awakened our nation” to the problems between African-Americans and police. So Michael Brown was now some sort of civil rights icon.
The president’s view of the case was clear, but his own Justice Department eventually decided they couldn’t justify pursuing Wilson.
I do not recall Obama ever expressing empathy for Officer Wilson, who was exonerated after the evidence showed he acted in self-defense after Brown tried to take his gun and possibly kill him with it. And while the trauma is no doubt worse for the person on the wrong end of a bullet, Wilson no doubt experienced extraordinary distress at having to kill someone and then be charge in the public arena with doing it out of racism.
In March 2012, after Trayvon Martin, an African-American, was killed by “white Hispanic” George Zimmerman, Obama said a few days later that Americans need to do “some soul-searching to figure out how does something like this happen,” and famously added, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
Now, what kind of message does that send to prosecutors and potential jurors?
Nevertheless, the jurors in the case were not influenced by Obama’s attempt to distort justice, and they pronounced Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder.