I suppose that depends on what criteria you use to judge. If you are a conservative, they not only don’t matter, they are counter-productive. Conservatives already know Trump is innocent (without investigation), as is his whole staff. They are the victims of dishonest party hacks who will stop at nothing, and will invent lies to harass good Americans. Crooked Hillary is getting her revenge. Alternatively, if you are looking for “truth, justice, and the American way”, then the investigations matter at least a little. They will reveal the truth. It is a fulfillment of American honesty and integrity. If you want justice, that is a matter for the courts, and there is every reason to believe justice will not be served.
So far, Trump’s path has crossed that of three justice officials whose positions did not survive the encounter. Namely: Preet Bharara, Sally Yates, and James Comey.
Preet Bharara was the U.S. Attorney whose jurisdiction was the Southern District of New York. He had a reputation as a persistent foe of corruption, money laundering, and financial crimes. Some of his successes were:
- Dean Skelos: Leader of the New York State Senate was sentenced to 5 years in prison for corruption charges relating to getting no-bid contracts for his son.
- Raj Rajaratnam: A hedge fund manager who was sentenced to 11 years in prison after having made over $60 million illegally using his fund.
- Reza Zarrab: A Turkish money launderer whose case is still being prosecuted.
- JP Morgan Chase: In matters relating to the Bernie Madoff scandal, JP Morgan Chase had to pay $1.7 billion in damage to the victims of that scandal.
Mr. Bharara’s jurisdiction included properties and financial transactions in New York. This district includes the stock exchanges, some of the most expensive realty in the US, and one of the largest concentrations of financial and law firms. Mr. Bharara was investigating Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, for trading Health Care stocks while influencing legislation that would benefit the companies in whom Mr. Price had holdings.
Mr. Bharara was fantastically successful in his role. One couldn’t want a better person in that role. However, he was fired by the Trump administration. Conservatives are quick to point out that Trump had the authority, and that this was not setting precedent. It has happened before. Like all propaganda, there is some truth to this. US Attorneys have been let go en masse before. However, the difference here is that no one was in the wings ready to take over. None of the US attorneys have been replaced. The on-going investigations and the daily business of the US Attorney’s offices have fallen into disarray. The incompetence of managing these transitions is staggering. But even so, incompetence is not the major issue here. A standard technique in spy-craft is to take out more than the intended target. This prevents the other side from knowing who might be responsible. It camouflages intent and motive. This is a Putin favorite in executions as well. When they can’t find who is responsible for a leak, they kill everyone who could have leaked. Who cares about a few more bodies? At least the leak was eliminated.
Sally Yates was confirmed as the US Deputy Attorney General by a vote of 84-12 in 2015. Remember that during that period, Republicans had already spent over six years stalling every initiative of the Obama administration that they could. She assumed the title of Acting Attorney General after President Trump fired Loretta Lynch from the position of Attorney General. Subsequent to that time, she warned the White House about serious facts with respect to Mike Flynn’s ties to Russia. These warnings were ignored. Later, she too was fired. But only after Sally Yates refused to support or enforce the President’s executive order regarding a travel ban on seven Muslim countries in the Middle East,. This seems to have been directly related to President Trump’s anger that Ms. Yates had not fallen in line with his wishes.
James Comey served as Director of the FBI from September 2013 to May 2017. The position of Director of the FBI is a ten year term, specifically designed to de-politicize the role. Due to his breaking with FBI protocol in the Hillary Clinton investigations, he committed one of the more egregious breaches in policy in the FBI in modern times. Donald Trump’s campaign benefitted directly from this breach. His polling numbers had been declining for weeks, but then reversed. Hillary Clinton’s polling results also reversed, in her case losing her lead, and eventually losing the election. While these actions warrant dismissal from the FBI, this did not happen during the election. President Obama declined to be involved, since the Republican Party would have used this as campaign fodder, claiming that Comey was the innocent victim of the Democratic Party, who fired him for doing his job. When President Trump took office, Comey was held on. It wasn’t until he refused a request for loyalty, and was stepping up investigations that President Trump fired him.
President Trump’s desire for loyalty is well documented. He asked for it from all his White House staffers. He calls for it from the campaign podium. He has made changes to White House procedures for it, by putting his family in key positions because of the loyalty factor. He put Jeff Sessions into the role of Attorney General as a direct compensation for the loyalty Sessions showed on the campaign trail.
Now we have Trump loyalists in the Department of Justice, the House, and the Senate. They are looking the other way at all the evidence being continually unearthed by investigative journalists. If the FBI gets conclusive proof that crimes were committed, and that Trump is himself colluding with Russia to achieve Russian goals for a substantial share of money laundering profit, it is entirely possible that Congress will refuse to impeach, and that the Department of Justice will say “there’s nothing here worth prosecution”. Finally, don’t forget that the President can pardon Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn, and anyone else of crimes committed. President Ford pardoned Richard Nixon of crimes that had not yet been prosecuted. Quoting from a NY Times opinion piece of January 5, 1988:
Accordingly, the Constitution simply provides that the President ”shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment” (Article II, section 2).
The leading Supreme Court case is Ex parte Garland (1867). Justice Stephen J. Field, writing for the Court in a 5-4 decision, held that the President’s pardoning power is ”unlimited,” and ”It extends to every offense known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken, or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment.”
President Trump has shown that he will get rid of anyone that crosses him. He has put his cronies in important justice positions. He owns the House and the Senate, and finally he controls Presidential pardons. He has reason to feel certain. With clear video footage of him asking the Russians to hack the Clinton campaign and release damaging material, there needs to be an investigation. Personal testimony doesn’t count for much, I guess. This week, the President confirmed that he fired Comey because he was tired of the “fake Russia story”, and wanted it over. It is clear that his firing of Comey was to achieve this end. The fact that the President was so ignorant of procedures that he didn’t know this would in fact stop anything does not clear him of intent to stop it. This seems like a textbook case of obstructing an investigation. That Trump had dinner with Comey, and the subject of Comey’s keeping his job, AND whether Trump was being investigated personally, is an example of quid-pro-quo harassment. Human Resources departments in any US company would be immediately sending the offender to training class. But President Trump has faced no consequences. Direct evidence of collusion with Russia, and obstruction of justice seems beneath his notice, or the notice of the Republican Party. Therefore, forgive me if I maintain a healthy skepticism that he will find a way to avoid impeachment, and prosecution.