In November, Rep. Darrell Issa had what, for him, may have been a “near death experience.” He almost lost his congressional race. Perhaps this explains why he agreed yesterday with Bill Maher that a special prosecutor should investigate Russia’s alleged interference with the 2016 presidential election.
Issa started out on solid ground, telling the lefty talk show host that House and Senate intelligence committees would look into Russia’s activities “within the special areas they oversee.” That’s how things should work. If there’s an issue relating to Russian intelligence activity and hacking capabilities, that’s for the intel committees, along with our intelligence agencies, to examine.
But, as the Washington Post reports, Issa’s answer was “not sufficient” for Maher. He “pressed Issa — formerly the head of the House Oversight Committee — on whether he would have ‘let that slide’ had similar suspicions arose involving the Democrats.” It’s a ridiculous question because holding congressional investigations does not amount letting anything slide.
These days, though, it seems that what’s insufficient for Bill Maher is insufficient for Dareel Issa. When Maher opined that there needs to be a special prosecutor — and that now-Attorney General Jeff Sessions should recuse himself “the same way former Attorney General Loretta Lynch recused herself” from an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails — Issa agreed. He said:
You’re right, you cannot have somebody, a friend of mine, Jeff Sessions, who was on the campaign and who was an appointee. You’re going to need to use the special prosecutor’s statute and office.
Hold on there. How did we get from congressional investigations to a special prosecutor? And who is the target.
The Russians, or whichever overseas party did the hacking, may have broken U.S. law, but they can’t be prosecuted.
Maher undoubtedly wants Team Trump, and indeed President Trump, to be prosecuted. But on what basis? What crime are Trump’s people thought to have committed? What is the basis for believing they committed it?
Maher didn’t say. Neither did Issa. Until there is good reason to believe that someone working on Trump’s behalf committed a crime, there is no reason to call for a special prosecutor.
Moreover, Maher got his facts just about completely wrong when he tried to invoke as precedent the Hillary Clinton email scandal. Loretta Lynch did not recuse herself from the decision whether to prosecute Clinton; she deferred to James Comey, but retained the right to overrule him. And no special prosecutor was ever used. It was Comey’s show.
Yet, instead of correcting Maher, Issa backed his conclusion (from false premises) that “you’re going to need to use” a special prosecutor. (I’m not sure what Issa meant by “special prosecutor’s statute and office;” the so-called Independent Counsel statute expired years ago.)
Here’s how I think this should work. The appropriate committee[s] in Congress should investigate. The FBI can investigate if it sees fit, and apparently it is investigating.
If, based on the result of investigations, a target emerges whose identity is such that Attorney General Sessions’ might be conflicted, he should recuse himself. The appointment of a special prosecutor probably should be a last resort, used only if a potential conflict extends down the line at the Justice Department.
We’re very far from any such scenario. I don’t think the Senate Intelligence Committee has even started investigating yet.
Why did Issa jump off the deep end? I don’t know. Maybe it had something to do with that “near death experience” in November.