With Democrats and the media licking their wounds over the Mueller Report not finding Russian collusion, they’ve been refocusing their energy on claims of obstruction of justice, even accusing Trump Attorney General William Barr of “protecting” Trump. Which is both amusing and hypocritical considering how they tolerated obstruction of justice by the Obama administration and sometimes assisted in that obstruction.
If Robert Mueller couldn’t conclude that Trump obstructed his investigation, then it’s quite clear there wasn’t any. Having written extensively about Obama-era corruption, I felt it was necessary to remind everyone that not only was the Obama administration plagued by multiple scandals but that obstructing investigations was standard operating procedure. For Democrats, Trump calling the Mueller an investigation a witch hunt is an impeachable offense, but Obama refusing to cooperate with investigations was much ado about nothing.
Despite many abuses of power during the Obama years, not once did Attorney General Eric Holder or Attorney General Loretta Lynch ever appoint a special counsel to investigate them. Instead, they’d occasionally launch their own investigations, which always exonerated them, or, when the Republican-controlled House launched their own investigations, the Obama administration refused to cooperate and obstructed their investigations.
In August 2014, 47 of 73 inspectors general wrote an open letter to Congress informing them that the Obama administration of obstructing investigations by not giving them full access to the information they need to investigate properly. Such a letter was unprecedented, and the systemic corruption and obstruction the inspectors general would have been considered an impeachable defense for almost any other president. The lack of outrage (thanks to lack of media attention to the scandal) emboldened the Obama administration to impose new restrictions on the investigative powers of inspectors general. Imagine President Trump trying to get away with that today?
Obstruction of justice was integral to the entire operation of the Obama administration. Whenever a scandal erupted, the kneejerk reaction by Obama and his cronies was to cover-up and obstruct. Below are the top five examples of investigations obstructed by the Obama administration.
5. The investigation of the New Black Panther Party voter intimidation
You may remember images and video from Election Day 2008, with members of the New Black Panther Party standing outside a Philadelphia polling place wearing military garb making racial remarks and discouraging people from voting. A voter intimidation case against the New Black Panthers began weeks before Obama took office. It was an open-and-shut case, and the New Black Panthers didn’t even show up in court to defend themselves, assuring the government’s victory in the case. Then in May 2009, the case was inexplicably dropped by Attorney General Eric Holder. When the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights investigated, the Obama administration refused to respond to requests from the commission and Congress. Federal attorneys were instructed not to cooperate with the investigation and then-Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights Tom Perez (the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee) lied under oath about who was involved in the decision to drop the case.
4. The investigation of the illegal firing of Inspector General Walpin
In 2009, Barack Obama inexplicably fired Inspector General Gerald Walpin, who had been investigating the misuse of federal grant money for AmeriCorps by Sacramento mayor and former NBA basketball star Kevin Johnson. Johnson took $850,000 of that money for his own nonprofit organization, where he used it to pay for political activity. During his investigation, Walpin discovered a cover-up of sexual abuse allegations made by three underage students against Johnson who were offered some of this grant money as hush money. As a result, Walpin recommended criminal charges against Johnson. But Johnson was an Obama ally and donor, and Obama wasn’t about to have him held accountable for his crimes, so Obama demanded Walpin’s resignation, which Walpin refused to give, and so Walpin was fired. However, the firing violated federal law—a law that Obama co-sponsored as a U.S. senator, no less. An investigation by Congress into the illegal firing was met with stonewalling by the Obama White House, and the withholding of documents. The Obama White House also deliberately misled Congress about the reasons for the firing.
3. The investigation of Fast & Furious
What happens when you send two thousand firearms across the border, lose hundreds of them, and then a border agent is killed with one of those guns? You lie, stonewall, and obstruct the investigation. At least, that’s what the Obama administration did. Attorney General Eric Holder falsely claimed to have no knowledge of the operation, and Obama personally obstructed the investigation by claiming executive privilege over documents requested by Congress. The obstruction by the Obama administration was so egregious that Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress, in a bipartisan vote, for refusing to cooperate with their investigation.
2. The investigation of the Iran ransom payments
A few short months after Obama had completed negotiations for the Iran Nuclear Deal, resulting in the lifting of sanctions and the unfreezing of billions in Iranian assets, the Obama administration made a shady payment to Iran in the amount of $400 million. The payment was made with foreign currency and done under the cover of night, and done in coordination with the release of four hostages, and completely in secret. Not even Congress knew about the payments or the hostage exchange. When the story broke, Obama repeatedly denied the payment was a ransom. An investigation began, and, of course, it was met with obstruction by the Obama administration. Attorney General Loretta Lynch refused to answer questions from Congress about the payments. Details of the deal weren’t classified, but the Obama administration hid key documents at a secure site to make access difficult. If the payments were on the level, there would be no reason to obstruct an investigation.
1. The investigation of Benghazi and the Hillary Clinton email scandal
The lies and the cover-up that followed the terrorist attack at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya, on September 11, 2012, less than two months before the presidential election, were extraordinary. Misleading the American people to protect Obama before the election was bad enough, but the cover-up of those lies was truly the coup de grâce of Obama administration obstruction.
A Senate Intelligence Committee report on the attack said the following about the Obama administration’s handling of the Benghazi investigation:
Important questions remain unanswered as a direct result of the Obama administration’s failure to provide the Committee with access to necessary documents and witnesses. We have also learned that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has developed significant information about the attacks and the suspected attackers that is not being shared with Congress, even where doing so would not in any way impact an ongoing investigation.
Senate Democrats also assisted in that obstruction. According to then-Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy, the committee’s investigation was “repeatedly stonewalled by the Obama administration, Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, and Committee Democrats.” According to Gowdy, Democrats on the committee “affirmatively delayed the identification of witnesses and the production of unquestionably relevant documents. Committee Democrats have not lifted a finger to help the Select Committee speed up its investigation and release a report.”
As the investigation continued, Hillary Clinton’s emails were subpoenaed, which resulted in the uncovering of her private email server. The thousands of requested emails were deleted, hard drives and phones destroyed, in what can only be described as obstruction of justice. Oh, but it gets worse because Obama wanted Hillary to succeed him to enshrine his legacy and his administration did everything they could to protect her. She wasn’t put under oath when she was questioned by the FBI, and an exoneration letter was drafted before the investigation had been concluded. There were essentially two cover-ups going on at the same time: the Benghazi cover-up and the private email server cover-up, which required epic obstruction and stonewalling in order for Hillary and Obama to survive. Former FBI director James Comey even testified under oath that he was pressured by Attorney General Loretta Lynch not to call the investigation into Hillary Clinton an “investigation,” but a “matter” in order to match the language being used by the Clinton campaign.
Obama himself was guilty of obstruction for publicly defending Hillary Clinton, according to former Attorney General Michael Mukasey. “President Obama’s statement that he thought she shouldn’t be charged because she didn’t intend to violate the law is the real Clinton obstruction because that is a statement by him that ‘this is the way I want that investigation to come out.’”
Matt Margolis is the author of The Scandalous Presidency of Barack Obama and the bestselling The Worst President in History: The Legacy of Barack Obama. His new book, Trumping Obama: How President Trump Saved Us From Barack Obama’s Legacy, will be published in 2019. You can follow Matt on Twitter @MattMargolis