Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

By Susan Shelley
Southern California News Group 

Only Those in Government Can Abuse Political Power or Give Special Favors

All the recent political investigations come down to an abuse of power

 

February 13, 2018

If you take the politics out of it, all the current investigations in politics are about just one thing: Abuse of power.

Forget whether crimes can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. It's not illegal to use a private server for government email. It's not illegal to talk to Russians. It's not illegal to dig for political dirt or to use that information to try to win an election.

What should concern us most is the abuse of power for personal gain, followed by the abuse of power to get away with it, accompanied by the abuse of power to destroy anybody who gets in the way.

But the first thing to note is that it's impossible to abuse government power if you're not in government. Candidates have only potential power. Government officials are the ones who need close scrutiny.

That's what President Barack Obama thought when he named Hillary Clinton to be secretary of state on the condition that the Clintons sign an unusual ethics agreement. It specified that the Clinton Foundation could not take new donations from foreign countries, it gave the White House a veto over former President Clinton's paid speeches, and it required the Foundation to make its donors public.

That's when Hillary Clinton set up a private email server for her government work, making her official communications invisible to a public records search, or even an internal search by someone in the government.

Legitimate questions have been raised about whether Clinton's State Department granted access, favors or special treatment to individuals or governments that donated to the Clinton Foundation or paid the former president. That would be an abuse of power, and if anyone could prove that Secretary Clinton had knowledge of a quid pro quo - Latin meaning "this for that," - she could be convicted of a crime.

After Clinton left office, she deleted tens of thousands of "personal" emails before complying with the State Department's request to turn over her official records. On July 10, 2015, the FBI initiated "a full investigation based upon a referral received by the U.S. Intelligence Community Inspector General" into the mishandling of classified information on Clinton's personal email server, according to an FBI report in July, 2016.

Today, Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz is investigating whether "improper considerations" motivated any law-enforcement decisions related to the Clinton email matter. If so, that would be an abuse of government power by someone who held it at the time.

Similarly, someone in power decided to use a dossier of unsubstantiated opposition research on Donald Trump as the basis of an application to the FISA court for authorization to spy on Trump adviser Carter Page. The dossier was paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee.

Hillary Clinton wasn't in power, so it's someone else who should be held accountable for presenting unverified political dirt to a judge as if it was the product of real intelligence work.

Donald Trump wasn't in power when his people met with Russians in Trump Tower in an alleged effort to gather dirt on Clinton, so that would not be an abuse of power, but if the Trump White House later exerted improper influence over a legitimate law enforcement investigation, that would be.

When the fog of secrecy over these investigations finally lifts, we'll find out who abused the power of government. If they're not already gone, we'll have to deal with it.

 

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