During the late 1990s, while I was chairman and general counsel of Judicial Watch, I triggered the now infamous Chinagate scandal, where President Bill Clinton and first lady Hillary Clinton not only allegedly illegally sold seats on Commerce Department trade missions, most particularly to China, for large campaign contributions and other government perks, but also had implanted in the department to run those trade missions a person of Chinese origin, John Huang, who was alleged and believed to be an agent of Beijing. Huang, who had previously worked for the Riady family and its Lippo Bank – both of whom had close ties to the Chinese Politburo – was placed there allegedly as a favor to the Riadys for having generously financed in part Bill Clinton’s political campaigns as governor of Arkansas and later the presidency.
At the time, this scandal, covered even by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, was thought to be on the scale of the famous Teapot Dome scandal involving another of our ethically challenged presidents, Warren G. Harding, and similar allegations of bribery inside his administration. As a result of the public uproar, Congress was compelled to commence so-called bipartisan “campaign finance hearings,” and an independent counsel, Daniel Pearson, a Miami lawyer, was appointed to investigate and, if crimes were uncovered, bring charges. This Clinton scandal became known as “Chinagate.”
At the center of the Chinagate scandal was Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, who has been nominated by Bill Clinton and then confirmed by the Senate to run the department, having previously been the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He was the all-time fundraising maven of the party and very good at shaking the money tree by whatever means necessary. Brown – who was a target along with Huang and another Chinaman, Charley Trie, of the bipartisan congressional investigation and Pearson’s grand jury proceedings – was alleged to have helped launder illegal contributions to the Clinton 1996 re-election campaign from the Chinese and other foreign and domestic interests.
The Chinagate scandal broke just months before an intern named Monica Lewinsky came into the spotlight for her affair with Bill Clinton, a scandal perceived to be the death knell for the Clinton presidency.
But why is it that the Chinagate scandal – which was much more serious than the Lewinsky scandal and even involved the death of Secretary Brown in a mysterious plane crash in Croatia while he was on a trade mission – was never pursued by Republicans for impeachment purposes? The answer: a simple concept called “Mutually Assured Destruction,” a reference to our nation’s nuclear policy with Russia and the former Soviet Union at the time. In other words, if you nuke me I will nuke you, killing all living souls in both countries and the world.
So how was it that the Republican elephant was neutered and little to nothing came home to roost with Chinagate? To end the congressional and other investigations of the Clintons and their party concerning Chinagate, the Democrats cleverly dug up and threatened to legally pursue dirt on their Republican counterparts involving Haley Barbour’s alleged shady dealings with China. Barbour was then chairman of the Republican National Committee.
The result: the campaign finance hearings were quickly shut down with the consensus of both political parties. Instead Congress conveniently moved to enact so-called campaign finance reform – known as the McCain-Feingold bill – that was sold as ending the alleged bribery that had occurred with China and other nefarious sources in our political system. Later, much of this politically motivated, hastily crafted legislation was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
The strategy pursued by the Clintons and the Democrats to short-circuit the Chinagate scandal and bring it to a close with meaningless legislation, akin to restricting O.J. Simpson from killing again, fell under the concept of “Mutually Assured Destruction.” Neither political party wanted to endure legal exposure and thus both hastily exited stage left.
Taking a page from the Democrats with the Chinagate scandal, this Washington, D.C., classic technique is now being employed by Trump Attorney General William Barr. Knowing that that heat in the proverbial “swamp kitchen” is about to turn red hot over the impending release of the Mueller Report, this week Barr laid his cards on the table by testifying before the Senate that he intended to open an investigation into alleged “spying” by the Deep State Obama era FBI and intelligence agencies into the Trump campaign, which it is alleged triggered the Mueller investigation.
Sure enough, the Democrats, most notably House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, and scores of other leftists, screamed like stuck pigs, knowing that Barr was about the checkmate them with “Mutually Assured Destruction.”
However, Barr’s gambit does not mean that any such investigation of spying on the Trump campaign and later his administration will result in criminal prosecutions of high FBI, Justice Department and intel officials, such as James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Rod Rosenstein, Bruce Ohr, John Brennan and James Clapper. While a few lower-level political appointees may be burned as a sacrifice to the “swamp gods” – as is nearly always the case in our nation’s capital of corruption – the higher-ups of the establishments of both political parties will in the end protect each other.
Yesterday, while driving around attending meetings, I listened to the radio broadcasts of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Both, naively, were predicting that Barr’s announcement foretold that justice was just around the corner over the Obama-era scandals involving this “spying.” I even heard Hannity boasting that while he would not claim “full credit” for this alleged breakthrough, that this was a great moment in American law enforcement.
Notwithstanding this unfounded hubris, any candid observer of the legal swamp in Washington, D.C., knows better.
The only hope for justice at this point is for the American people themselves to peacefully mete out justice through citizens grand juries and other legal means. The creatures that live in the swamp will always, in the end, protect each other – ensuring that their corrupt power and money train continue to slither on in the murky and dark waters of the Potomac.
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