If Congress is considering impeachment charges related to the 2016 election, they should center not on President Trump but on former President Obama “and his Nixonian use of various agencies to target candidate Trump,” contends Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton.
“If there is anyone who needs to be on the dock, it would be President Obama,” he said in an interview Monday with WND.
Fitton’s organization, with 30 lawsuits already in motion, has relentlessly pursued documents and communications related to the Obama administration’s investigation of alleged collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign through Freedom of Information Act requests.
“The very nature of the activity suggests President Obama would have been advised and approved of the counter-intelligence/spy operation against candidate Trump,” Fitton said.
The Judicial Watch chief was referring to the operation codenamed “Crossfire Hurricane,” reported May 16 by the New York Times, which had at least one “government informant” in the Trump campaign who met several times with campaign volunteers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos.
Fitton said publicly available information indicates Obama approved of the activity.
He noted the Jan. 6, 2017, meeting at Trump Tower in which then-FBI director James Comey informed Trump of the “salacious and unverified” allegation in the Steele dossier of an incident with prostitutes at a Moscow hotel. Trump later said he thought Comey was trying to blackmail him. Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, Fitton pointed out, later wrote a “CYA” email to memorialize a Jan. 5, 2017, Oval Office meeting she attended with Obama and Comey in which they discussed confronting Trump the next day with the dossier information.
Rice wrote to herself: “President Obama began the conversation by stressing his continued commitment to ensuring that every aspect of this issue is handled by the Intelligence and law enforcement communities ‘by the book.’ The President stressed that he is not asking about, initiating or instructing anything from a law enforcement perspective. He reiterated that our law enforcement team needs to proceed as it normally would by the book.”
Fitton explained that his tweet Sunday, saying “Obama, btw, can still be impeached,” was to generate discussion about holding Obama accountable, not to suggest that impeachment necessarily would be the best course of action if evidence warranted prosecution. He wanted to emphasize, amid all the impeachment talk by Democrats on Capitol Hill, that if anybody should be impeached, the evidence indicates it should be Obama. William Murphy, a professor of American history at State University of New York at Oswego, confirmed that Congress could impeach a former president, noting the penalties of conviction including a ban from holding future office.
IG review ‘necessary but not sufficient’
Fitton pointed out that the White House won’t be subject to public-records disclosure for years, but Congress can obtain them, and the president has authority to release the records as well.
As WND reported, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has asked Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to review the claim that the Obama administration placed an FBI informant inside the Trump campaign in 2016 to conduct surveillance.
The request was made shortly after President Trump tweeted that he would “officially” ask “that the Department of Justice look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes.”
Fitton said he thinks bringing the IG in is “a necessary step but not sufficient.”
“The FBI and DOJ have opportunities to immediately account for their behavior, and they shouldn’t hide behind the IG process, which would slow discovery of what went on,” he told WND.
Fitton explained that inspector general investigations are “usually used as excuses to prevent material from being disclosed publicly.”
He said it was “phenomenal” that Trump took the step of telling the Justice Department “you need to come clean here – we need to figure out what went on.”
“But the IG is only one tool for investigation, and Judicial Watch will continue its investigations of this deep state conspiracy, and Congress also has to keep up the pressure,” Fitton said.
“We can’t rely on internal IG investigations to ferret out abuse here. This is more significant. We need immediate accountability, as best as we are able.”
Noting the scandal has been compared to Watergate, WND asked Fitton whether he thinks any high-ranking officials will be brought to justice, such as happened after President Nixon resigned.
“It’s difficult, given the anti-Trump, liberal nature of Washington, D.C., to hold anyone accountable to that extent,” he said. “But certainly the people want us to try.”
Precedence for impeaching former officials
The history professor, Murphy, said that while a former president could be impeached, he views a “lengthy and contentious impeachment process” as a waste of time, because any impeachment proceeding would necessarily involve federal crimes that could be more easily prosecuted through the criminal justice system.
He said, however, there is some precedent for the idea.
In the 1870s, Ulysses S. Grant’s secretary of war, William Belknap, was impeached on charges of corruption and bribery. Belknap resigned before the House could vote to impeach him, but the House went ahead and impeached him anyway. Even though senators thought the evidence of his guilt was clear, they believed the Senate lacked jurisdiction to try him after leaving office, and the vote did not reach the require two-thirds majority for conviction.