There is no justice in undermining the special counsel investigation

There is no justice in undermining the special counsel investigation
© Getty Images

President TrumpDonald John TrumpGraham: America must 'accept the pain that comes in standing up to China' Weld 'thrilled' more Republicans are challenging Trump New data challenges Trump's economic narrative MORE charged that the FBI planted for political purposes a spy in his 2016 campaign. He tweeted last week, “Reports are there was indeed at least one FBI representative implanted, for political purposes, into my campaign for president. It took place very early on, and long before the phony Russia Hoax became a ‘hot’ Fake News story. If true — all time biggest political scandal!”

The charge of a political spy in the campaign is so flimsy that Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani admitted, “First of all, I don't know for sure, nor does the president, if there really was one.” As reports show, there appears to be no such political spy in the campaign. Rather, an FBI informant spoke with campaign advisers George PapadopoulosGeorge Demetrios Papadopoulos10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall Flynn, Papadopoulos to speak at event preparing 'social media warriors' for 'digital civil war' Judge dismisses DNC lawsuit against Trump campaign, Russia over election interference MORE and Carter Page after the FBI learned of their contacts with Russian operatives.

ADVERTISEMENT
The informant also briefly contacted campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis, who had authorized Papadopoulos to visit Moscow and meet with Russian officials. There is nothing illegal or improper about using informants in a national security investigation. To the contrary, the FBI would have been derelict if it did not attempt to investigate evidence of illicit contacts with representatives of a hostile foreign power.

This latest charge continues President Trump’s attempt to discredit federal law enforcement, undermine the special counsel investigation, and possibly fire Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinSanders, Warren back major shift to fight drug overdoses 10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall Why the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to Trump MORE who supervises the investigation. Among other charges, Trump falsely claimed that former President Obama had committed a serious felony by ordering the wiretapping of his phones in Trump Tower.

Trump previously claimed that no one on his campaign team had any contact with Russians, although there are now dozens of publicly known contacts, many of which involved persons at the highest levels of the campaign, including Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortEx-Trump campaign aide Rick Gates testifies against former Obama counsel Gregory Craig Trial of ex-Obama White House counsel suddenly postponed Top Mueller probe prosecutor to join Georgetown Law as lecturer MORE, Michael Flynn, Donald Trump Jr.Donald (Don) John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' Dick Cheney to attend fundraiser supporting Trump reelection: report MORE and Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerTrump allies say A$AP Rocky was supposed to thank him but his team stopped 'returning our text messages': report President tweets 'few work harder' than Ivanka, Jared PETA billboard in Baltimore calls Kushner a 'rich pest' MORE. Trump charged that the special counsel investigation was a corrupt “witch hunt” headed up by “all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama.” Yet, three Republicans — special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony MORE, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein — are leading the investigation.

Rather than acting politically during the campaign to undermine Trump, the FBI did precisely the opposite. It severely damaged the Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump preps conspiracy theory to explain faltering economy The ideological divide on vaping has a clear winner: Smokers Biden struggles to hit it off with millennials MORE campaign while leaving the Trump campaign unscathed. During the campaign, the FBI was investigating both Clinton’s use of a private email and a possible conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians to rig the election. James ComeyJames Brien ComeyThe road not taken: Another FBI failure involving the Clintons surfaces Sarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor 3 real problems Republicans need to address to win in 2020 MORE, the target of so much Trump wrath, played out the Clinton investigation in full view of the American people with devastating effects on her campaign.

In a nearly unprecedented public discussion of the decision not to level any criminal charges against Clinton, Comey excoriated her for the “extremely careless” handling of classified emails. Then, just 10 days before the presidential election, he announced the reopening of the Clinton investigation based on emails discovered in the computer of former congressman Anthony Weiner, that were later proved to be inconsequential. Yet, Comey revealed nothing gleaned from the informant and kept even the existence of the Trump-Russia investigation secret, so it had no effect on the campaign.

Trump has escalated his latest charge against the FBI to a dangerous new level. He is breaching the normal separation between law enforcement and the presidency to discredit the FBI and the Justice Department. The president demanded that the Justice Department look into whether the FBI surveilled his campaign for “political purposes” and whether and such “demands or requests” were made by Obama administration officials.

This intervention into an probe involving himself and his associates has precedent only in the Watergate scandal. In 1974, the House Judiciary Committee, with bipartisan support from a third of Republicans, endorsed three articles of impeachment against President Nixon, for abuse of power, defying lawful subpoenas, and obstructing justice.

The obstruction article closely mirrors the of actions of our current president, charging Nixon “with interfering or endeavouring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees.” Rather than face certain impeachment by the full House and conviction in the Senate, Nixon resigned the presidency shortly after the committee voted.

Trump’s perceived obstruction appears even more consequential than Nixon’s because the investigation is probing the corruption of our democracy by a hostile foreign power. Alexander Hamilton, the great expositor of American constitutional government, warned that foreign powers, “these most deadly adversaries of republican government,” would seek “to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, then by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?”

If the special counsel investigation uncovers a coordinated effort with the Russians to raise Donald Trump to the presidency, then the American people must disregard his deflection and demand what Hamilton called the appropriate constitutional remedy of impeachment for such an “abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Allan Lichtman, Ph.D., is a distinguished professor of history at American University. He is the author of “The Case for Impeachment.”