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September 20th, 2018

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Losing America

Laura Hollis

By Laura Hollis

Published June 22,2018

 Losing America

There is a different standard of law when it comes to certain people in this country. That is the real message behind the inspector general's report just released on June 14. And although many on the left are doing a happy dance about it, they shouldn't be.

First, as authors like Andrew McCarthy at National Review and David Catron at The American Spectator have explained in detail, the IG's exonerating conclusions simply do not follow the ample evidence of political bias detailed in the report. And other conclusions which do follow don't play out the way the left would like. (For example, the IG's report found that then-FBI Director James Comey's conduct was "extraordinary and insubordinate." Under those circumstances, President Donald Trump was correct in firing Comey, which means that Trump was not obstructing justice in so doing. Given the utter lack of proof of collusion with Russia, this renders Special Counsel Robert Mueller's ongoing investigation essentially baseless.)

More significantly, however, this is not the first time that the American public has watched as those who have abused their power and engaged in misconduct escape without significant consequences:

—Lois Lerner, former director of the IRS' Exempt Organizations Division, was accused of discriminating against conservative nonprofits petitioning for tax-exempt status. During the investigation, Lerner's hard drive somehow crashed and her emails on it were gone. The backup tapes were also mysteriously erased. The IRS ultimately apologized, and Lerner retired with her pension. A DOJ investigation found "mismanagement" and "poor judgment" but concluded that since no IRS employee had ever reported concerns about political bias or discriminatory intent, there was no reason to pursue the matter further.

—President Obama's first attorney general, Eric Holder, was held in both civil and criminal contempt for refusing to turn over documents requested by Congress about the Fast and Furious sting operation that resulted in thousands of guns in the hands of Mexican gangs. Holder testified to Congress that he did not know about the operation before 2011, but documents later released called that statement into question. Obama's Justice Department declined to prosecute, citing "executive privilege," and an investigation by Inspector General Michael Horowitz found that there had been "misguided strategies" and "errors in judgment," but no reason to prosecute.

—Holder's successor, Loretta Lynch, had a private meeting with Bill Clinton in her private jet on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport, while his wife, Hillary, was under FBI investigation for alleged mishandling of classified information. Emails later released showed that the FBI's primary concern was over the source of the leak, not the ethical impropriety of attorney general.

—A mere five days later, James Comey held the press conference at which he announced that Hillary Clinton would not be prosecuted, despite findings that Clinton was "extremely careless" in her handling of classified information — and a tacit acknowledgement that others might be treated differently.

After Trump won the 2016 presidential election, more information came out that called the integrity of the Clinton email investigation into question. Thousands of State Department emails — including classified correspondence — were found on the computer belonging to Anthony Weiner (then-husband of Clinton aide Huma Abedin). James Comey was revealed to have drafted the memo announcing the decision not to prosecute before the investigation was even completed. The memo describing Clinton's conduct as "grossly negligent" (a criminal violation of the applicable statute) was rewritten to read "extremely careless." Who rewrote this memo? None other than Peter Strzok — the same Strzok who exchanged tens of thousands of texts with his married paramour and fellow FBI lawyer Lisa Page, in which the two revealed not only their support for Clinton and loathing of Trump but also cited an "insurance policy" and efforts to "stop" Trump from getting elected, as well as their contacts with the FISA Court judge who issued warrants for surveillance of the Trump campaign and transition team.

Millions of Americans waited with baited breath to see if, finally, someone was going to suffer consequences for abuse of power and violation of the public trust. Now once again, we watch as those in positions of power skate by with no more than a bit of tongue-clucking and finger-wagging, while the rest of us schmucks out here in flyover land know we'd be fired, disbarred and/or imprisoned for similar conduct.

And although the inspector general was not looking into the propriety of the Russia/collusion investigation per se, no one seriously believes that any subsequent investigation of Strzok's or Page's behavior — or anyone else's at the FBI or DOJ — will result in legal sanction.

That's the problem.

The risk here is not that Americans will become disillusioned if some rogue FBI or DOJ or IRS agents are penalized for being bad actors or partisan frauds; the risk is that Americans will become disillusioned when they aren't. Once a critical mass of people no longer believes in the basic integrity of the legal system, the doors are opened to widespread corruption. Power, not decency, becomes the objective.

When that happens, you've lost the rule of law. And when you've lose the rule of law, you've lost America.

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Laura Hirschfeld Hollis is on the faculty at the University of Notre Dame, where she teaches courses in business law and entrepreneurship. She has received numerous awards for her teaching, research, community service and contributions to entrepreneurship education.

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