What is a special counsel, and why do we have them? According to Wikipedia, “a special prosecutor (or special counsel or independent counsel or independent prosecutor) is a lawyer appointed to investigate, and potentially prosecute, a particular case of suspected wrongdoing for which a conflict of interest exists for the usual prosecuting authority” — i.e., the perceived conflict of interest of Jeff Sessions to investigate alleged collusion of the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 election.
Anyway, while liberals are holding out hope for Robert Mueller to find evidence of collusion and force Trump to resign or be impeached, it occurs to me that despite the rampant corruption and scandals-a-plenty of the Obama years that there was never a single special counsel appointed. Not one. Obama supporters point to this as evidence that his administration was above board, but in reality, it was just proof of just how corrupt things were. By limiting investigations to their own sham investigations that saw no one held accountable, or to congressional Republicans whose investigations they could simply stonewall and accuse of being partisan, the Obama administration felt they could keep up the ruse that they were scandal-free. Here are six times the Obama administration should have appointed a special counsel to investigate a scandal but didn’t.
6. The Walpin firing scandal
It’s a pretty big deal when the president of the United States breaks the law in order to protect his friend and donor who was being investigated for misusing federal grant money… but Barack Obama did just that for his friend, former NBA star and mayor of Sacramento Kevin Johnson. Johnson had taken nearly a million dollars in AmeriCorps grant money to his own nonprofit organization to pay volunteers for political activity. While investigating this, Gerald Walpin, the inspector general for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), discovered a cover-up of sexual abuse allegations made by three students against Johnson who were offered some of this grant money as hush money. Walpin recommended criminal charges against Johnson and was quickly told to resign. Walpin refused, and Obama fired him. The firing itself violated a law that Obama co-sponsored as a U.S. senator. Congressional Republicans launched their own investigation, and the Obama White House responded with a smear campaign against Walpin and withheld documents from Congress.
On September 11, 2012, a group with connections to al Qaeda attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, died. This was just awful timing for Obama. The 2012 presidential election was just weeks away. The cover-up began instantly. An obscure YouTube video was blamed for inciting a “spontaneous” protest even though all the key players knew it was a pre-planned terror attack almost immediately. That didn’t stop Obama and Hillary publicly claiming to the contrary. UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on the weekend talk shows to repeat the lie over and over and over again. Obama was trying to save his reelection, and Hillary her political future as well. Republicans investigated, but the Obama administration stonewalled those investigations, which they branded as partisan witch hunts. An independent special counsel would have made it difficult for the Obama administration to claim the investigation was tainted, so one was not appointed.
4. The IRS scandal
Using the IRS to target Obama’s political enemies during an election year? Obama did try to distance himself from the scandal but according to a report, IRS employees were “acutely” aware that Obama wanted a crackdown on conservative and Tea Party groups, and Douglas Shulman, the IRS commissioner, visited the White House a whopping 157 times (more than anyone in Obama’s cabinet) while the IRS abuses occurred. Gee, do you think there’s a potential conflict of interest here? Unlike other scandals where investigations were left to Republicans in Congress, the Obama administration did investigate the IRS scandal… did you know about this? Yep, Attorney General Eric Holder appointed a DOJ lawyer to run the investigation. Her main qualification was that she was an Obama donor, and within a few short days of her appointment, it was announced the FBI was not planning to file any criminal charges connected to the scandal. Of course not.
3. Uranium One
In 2010, the Obama administration approved a deal allowing the sale of 20 percent of America’s uranium to be sold to Russia over Republicans’ expressed national security concerns. The deal was tainted by donations to the Clinton Foundation and an administration cover-up of bribery and racketeering before being approved. The Obama administration threatened an FBI informant to keep him from talking about what he knew. There is currently a congressional investigation underway, but why wasn’t this investigated when it happened? Who was in charge of the FBI when the deal went down? Mr. Robert Mueller. That name should ring a bell with you.
2. Fast & Furious
Two thousand firearms sent across the border… hundreds lost… a border agent killed with one of those guns. The Obama administration did everything in their power to stonewall the investigation. Attorney General Eric Holder even claimed to have no knowledge of the operation (an outright lie) and Obama asserted executive privilege to withhold documents from congressional investigators. Conflict of interest, maybe? Absolutely there should have been a special counsel appointed. But if there’s anything I know from researching Obama’s scandalous administration it’s that Obama picked people to run his Department of Justice who were willing to protect him and whom he, in turn, would protect as well.
1. The Hillary Clinton email scandal
What about this scandal wasn’t tainted? Obama’s former secretary of state and heir apparent to the Oval Office is caught violating federal transparency laws by hosting a private email server—which was only discovered as a result of the Benghazi investigation (which they were also stonewalling). Over 30,000 emails were discovered to have been deleted. Phones were smashed with hammers… Obama personally communicated with Hillary via this private email, with a pseudonym of his own… FBI Director James Comey had drafted Hillary’s exoneration letter before even interviewing her. We now know that FBI investigator Peter Strzok, who was investigating both Hillary and Trump, had personally softened the language on the exoneration statement. Right around the same time, he was telling fellow investigator and lover Lisa Page that he would stop Trump from getting elected president. What difference at this point does it make, right? Everything about that investigation was tainted. A special counsel was needed as soon as the private server was discovered. But, Obama had to protect his heir apparent, and therefore his legacy, and so the investigation was run by pro-Hillary/anti-Trump partisans who had no business doing so.
The common thread between these examples is the stonewalling and cover-ups committed by the Obama administration in order to protect itself. Corruption begat more corruption and there was no way they were going to allow an investigation it couldn’t control (or dismiss as partisan) happen.
Matt Margolis is the author of the book, The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling book The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis