The authoritarianism is coming from inside the House.
Eleven House Republicans — Ron DeSantis, Andy Biggs, Dave Brat, Jeff Duncan, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Andy Harris, Jody Hice, Todd Rokita, Claudia Tenney, and Ted Yoho — have signed a joint letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling for the criminal prosecution of Hillary Clinton and a variety of other Obama administration appointees, career FBI officials, and even Trump appointee Dana Boente, who is currently the FBI’s general counsel.
The lead of the letter states that the authors are “especially mindful of the dissimilar degrees of zealousness that has marked the investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, respectively.”
Clinton was, of course, extensively investigated by multiple committees of the US Congress as well as the FBI. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy went so far as to concede at one point that the only actual purpose of the Clinton investigations was to hurt her poll numbers, and though the FBI’s investigations exonerated Clinton, then-FBI Director James Comey offered, against DOJ guidelines, multiple instances of public commentary on her conduct that ultimately hurt her campaign.
Nonetheless, House Republicans suggest that she should be prosecuted on the theory that because the Steele dossier was paid for in part by a lawyer who worked for the Clinton campaign, the campaign was “disguising payments to Fusion GPS” in a way that violated federal campaign finance law.
But the issue here, to be clear, is not a particular zeal for campaign finance law. It’s a broad request that the full force of the US government be brought to bear against Trump’s political enemies. They want prosecutions of not just Clinton but also:
- Former FBI Director James Comey (for what they allege to be a politically motivated failure to prosecute Clinton, as well as for the allegedly illegal act of leaking his own notes to a friend)
- Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe (for the same “lack of candor” that was already the pretext for taking away his pension)
- Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch (for not prosecuting the Uranium One deal)
- FBI agent Peter Strzok and DOJ lawyer Lisa Page (for allegedly interfering with the Clinton email investigation)
- Separately, it calls for prosecution of “all DOJ and FBI personnel responsible for signing the Carter Page warrant application,” which is Comey and McCabe plus former Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates plus former US attorney (and current FBI general counsel) Dana Boente for allegedly violating Page’s civil liberties.
The point here is almost certainly not to generate any actual prosecutions so much as it is to try to muddy the waters in the media — creating a two-sided battle between and his “deep state” enemies rather than the reality that the Trump investigation has been led almost entirely by Republicans and career civil servants.
But it’s also an important signpost of where we stand in terms of Trump’s relationship to the congressional Republican Party. On policy issues, Trump has largely adopted Paul Ryan’s views. In exchange, mainstream GOP leaders like Mitch McConnell are shutting down legislation that would stop Trump from firing Robert Mueller, while fringier figures like the signatories to Trump’s letter are urging him to go further and mount politically motivated prosecutions of the opposition party.