By Stephen Owsinski:
The U.S. Attorney General’s office is only as good as its adherence to an unbiased, apolitical, unyielding stance with regards to justice pursuits, no matter who is in the White House or whose trail has become littered with fact-patterned malfeasance. And Bill Clinton tested those waters.
This is not about Attorney General Loretta Lynch; well, only partly. Now a part of American history, and apart from what the U.S. Attorney General’s office represents, is a June 2016 elbow-rubbing session between Bill Clinton and his former employee, AG Lynch, aboard her government-owned airplane. The expected hubbub chewed at AG Lynch. Rightly so. But not many picked at the former President’s highly questionable behavior surrounding this nose-to-nose gathering. How it factored into the downfall of Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid likely gnaws at the camp of curiosity.
A government entity understandably insulated against partisanship, intrusion, and tooling is its mainstay. Despite what was said or not said between AG Lynch and Hillary Clinton’s spouse, that tarmac “meeting” should not have convened. That it did, on a federal airplane sitting on an Arizona airport’s tarmac, typifies someone’s ego and relative urgency. Bill Clinton knows or should have known the delicate variables pertinent to his actions and how it could dash his wife’s presidential bid.
It reminds us of his gubernatorial prime when he traversed Arkansas in state-owned vehicles, with troopers chaperoning him around, congealing love interests, while Arkansas First Lady Hillary Clinton was doing first-lady stuff (cultivating her own interests and ambitions). While the governor’s infidelity was seemingly—to him—nothing more than chomping on a ham and cheese sandwich, those same state troopers who conspired to cover Bill’s tracks opened-up and dished the dirt. That is just one example of a litany of impure fraternization episodes warranting concern.
From the Phoenix airport incident, varying perspectives unfolded. The tarmac talk and how it materialized drips suspicion. One version is that AG Lynch’s plane (just arrived) and Clinton’s plane (preparing for departure) happened upon each other. Reportedly, both planes were about 75 yards apart, not even one football field away. He notices, deplanes, and leads his U.S. Secret Service security detail across the tarmac where he boards (uninvitingly?) Lynch’s plane.
Another spin on the Bill Clinton airport “maneuver” was explained in the New York Post, describing a Hollywood-drama with planes in-motion, Bill halting his from take-off mode in order to compel a physical meeting with AG Lynch after he notes her plane taxiing for de-boarding rituals. Same follow-up applies: Lynch’s FBI security detail mills about the tarmac with Bill’s Secret Service agents. One can imagine the extent of bewilderment among the co-opted law enforcement cadre. Agents agreed that the “impromptu” gathering between AG Lynch and Bill Clinton was bizarre, spanned about 20-25 minutes, then…off they went about their respective days.
Security detail agents reportedly anonymously admitted being taken-aback by the transpiration. That’s a lot of badges that didn’t plan on huddling. And each of them knew political fallout was imminent.
In any scenario, Bill Clinton’s hubris drove his feet to ascend AG Lynch’s plane’s stairs whereupon he imposed face-time, leaving one to wonder if he ever entertained what his actions would do to his spouse’s presidential campaign. Was it a fishing expedition to gauge DoJ’s investigation of HRC, or was it a poorly-timed, absent-minded, juvenile gesture to say hello to one of his appointees?
No matter which scenario one may buy-into, and regardless of Mr. Clinton’s purpose, one fact remains: this “impromptu maneuver” should not have taken place. That much is crystal clear. It conjures the proverbial “back-scratching” unmistakably inherent in politics, again.
There is prominent reason for the AG’s office to be insulated and for it to perform inviolately. I’ve never heard an argument to the contrary.
The airport meeting only bolstered the growing expectation of appointing a “special prosecutor,” as previously stipulated by President-elect Donald Trump during presidential debates. Mr. Trump countered Hillary Clinton’s portrayal of an untouchable figure of power, citing a “rigged system.” “Special prosecutor” assertions were bandied-about and continue still, related to the simmering nature of HRC’s wrongdoing in criminal context. Many strings are attached and tying loose ends was in distillation phase (Trey Gowdy et al).
Given that the U.S. Attorney General is escorted, and whose security detail is composed of FBI agents under the Department of Justice (DoJ) umbrella, there is a compelling interest in safeguarding justice pursuits from any external sources. In the property of taxpayers, Bill Clinton may have sought to tip justice scales in his wife’s favor, or at least gauge the pulse of the Clinton email investigation. Neither Mr. nor Mrs. Clinton has any entitlements to be privy to any matters under the scope of DoJ.
For her part, AG Lynch had an obligation to circumvent such a pow-wow. Diplomatically declining would have been appropriate and would have underscored Justice’s integrity. Instead, the hatch was opened and apparently unimpeded.
Mr. Bill Clinton seized upon the moment to visit AG Lynch—whose U.S. attorney appointment he made in 1999. The waters do seem tainted.
That “maneuver” will also add to the persistent vexation surrounding Hillary Clinton’s political downfall, at least from those in her camp.
The Washington Post’s Dan Balz summed it up well in his report citing, for their respective parts, how Bill Clinton and AG Lynch did nothing to advance principles of Lady Justice. Instead, many scratch their heads and arch a skeptical eyebrow. For a man who is well-known for being calculating, Mr. Clinton’s tarmac “maneuver” deposited the appearance of irreversible blunder, certainly doing no good for his wife’s presidential purpose.
When The Washington Post’s Jonathan Capehart conducted a formal interview with AG Lynch— pointedly asking her “What on earth were you thinking?”—she embraced the appearance of impropriety and nuanced the controversy (DoJ compromise) stemming from the tarmac talk. Whereas Bill Clinton has been silent on the issue, AG Lynch claimed the chat between her and Bill Clinton amounted to nothing more than catching-up on grandchildren and travels and such. (For a video depiction of this interview, view here.)
President-elect Donald trump once called the tarmac talk “out of bounds,” and his assertion has merit. Of the Clinton-Lynch chat, one-time senior aide to President Obama, David Axelrod, tweeted “I take @LorettaLynch & @billclinton at their word that their convo in Phoenix didn’t touch on the probe. But foolish to create such optics.”
Republican Senator John Cornyn said in a Tweet: “Lynch & Clinton: Conflict of interest? An attorney cannot represent two parties in a dispute and must avoid even the appearance of conflict.” Although AG Lynch was not representing Clinton, I believe his message hints at her seeming coziness with Bill Clinton while she (DoJ) investigates his spouse.
No one saw this tarmac run-in as a good idea except, clearly, Bill Clinton.
Then Came Comey
Speculation ensued; still does to some degree. The notion to speculate stems from FBI Director J. Comey and his ostensible hot, cold, lukewarm, cold course of investigating Hillary Rodham Clinton. Much has been said—often tacitly—about Comey’s role in the Clinton investigation and, specifically, the appearance of political strings being pulled, entangled, de-knotted, and tangled-up again to arrive at the conclusion that there simply was not enough (intent) to indict HRC.
Reports of agents heavily involved in the Clinton investigation delineated how FBI investigators became frustrated with how the information was flowing and palpable political pressures. DoJ and its investigative arms are Constitutionally equipped to work in an apolitical sphere and be beyond reproach as it relates to external interests trying to unduly influence or abjectly veer the course of high-profile investigations (any investigations, actually).
HRC can blame the Russians. She can blame WikiLeaks. She can blame the man who once told the nation “I did not have sexual relations with that woman!” before he told the truth. She might even blame Pinocchio.
However, there is a more-applicable source of blame: Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Just as Congressman Trey Gowdy consistently asserted, all arrows point to her. In a FoxNews segment with Megyn Kelly, Mr. Gowdy cited how Clinton is “the author of her own destiny.” Her demeanor at hearings and the presidential debates illustrates an arrogant and cocky woman who believes she is beyond reach, who has craftily tinkered with the American people, and who has exhibited a perverse pathology of pivoting away from hard-line inquiry. (My, how her smirk is like a scar across the C-SPAN lens!)
And for all this, what did she get?
I know what she didn’t get. And I anticipate our President-elect’s reconsideration surrounding the HRC rubble Trey Gowdy and other government officials partially pieced together.
A complete version for American history books will include Hillary Rodham Clinton facing justice, once and for all. That will definitively punctuate the long-awaited close to this sordid saga.
After her husband’s tarmac talk with AG Lynch, HRC recognized it and stated “Hindsight is 20/20.”
Perhaps she will be uttering those exact words again, sooner or later. Indictment?
I envision certain brilliant legal minds poring over documents, priming for post-inauguration (ahem) Justice.
Stephen Owsinski is a Senior OpsLens Contributor and retired law enforcement officer whose career included assignments in the Uniformed Patrol Division and Field Training Officer (FTO) unit. He is currently a researcher and writer.