Something needs to be done…
(NRO) – Since the newly revealed e-mails put the lie to Clinton’s always risible claim that these communications were unrelated to State Department business, they tend to be double-whammies. First, their substance is stunningly corrupt, often showing how she and her staff ran the State Department as an annex of the Clinton Foundation, the enterprise Bill and Hillary used to monetize political influence to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. Second, even the most innocuous of the e-mails that concern State Department business illustrate that Clinton brazenly lied to Congress and the public for over a year: maintaining that the destroyed e-mails involved yoga, Chelsea’s wedding, and other personal matters, not the operations of government.
Mrs. Clinton’s audacity has caught the attention of two congressional committees, whose chairmen have noticed that the new revelations show she quite intentionally misled lawmakers in House testimony. (The testimony pertained to the Benghazi massacre, another “old” Clinton scandal, if you’re keeping score.) Last week, those chairmen — Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) and Bob Goodlatte (R., Va.) of, respectively, the Oversight and Judiciary Committees — penned a letter to the Justice Department asking that Clinton be investigated and prosecuted for perjury.
Except as a political salvo to remind the public of Clinton’s mendacity as she campaigns for the presidency, the letter is pointless. The Obama Justice Department, having already declined to prosecute a solid felony case against Clinton for mishandling classified information and withholding government records is not going to give perjury allegations the time of day. More to the point, though, the congressional plea for a criminal investigation is wrongheaded. Mrs. Clinton should be impeached, not indicted.
Republicans keep telling us they are “constitutional conservatives.” Well, how about it? The remedy provided by the Framers to deal with corrupt executive-branch officials (including former officials who might seek to wield power again) is impeachment, not criminal prosecution. That is because, for the well-being of the nation, the critical thing is that power be stripped from those who abuse it, to prevent them from doing further damage. Whether, beyond that, they are prosecuted for any criminal offenses arising out of the wrongdoing is beside the point.
As a practical matter, moreover, the perjury case chairmen Chaffetz and Goodlatte posit is weak, as I will demonstrate in a subsequent column. That is no fault of theirs. Perjury is a hard criminal case to make. Its focus is not a pattern of palpable deception but, more narrowly, whether a witness, in the course of being deceptive, has told provable, literal lies. The art of deceit (on which the Clintons wrote the book) generally involves deflection and misdirection. More common than flat out lies are assertions that quibble with, rather than respond, to the question; or that, while intentionally misleading, are technically accurate. It is rare for prosecutors to charge a perjury case even after a jury has clearly found a witness’s testimony to be false. Our everyday lives tell us why: It is often quite easy to detect that a person’s version of events was dishonest, even if it is difficult to pluck out a single sentence that was literally false.
But for now, let’s leave to the side the four perjury allegations specified in the Chaffetz-Goodlatte letter. Let’s stick with the Constitution.
Read the whole thing.