SENATE REPUBLICANS WANT SPECIAL PROSECUTOR…. It’s hard to overstate how incredibly dumb this is.
In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder today, all seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee “urge the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate Congressman Joe Sestak’s claim that a White House official offered him a job to induce him to exit the Pennsylvania Senate primary race against Senator Arlen Specter.”
The seven — Sens. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, Orrin Hatch of Utah, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Jon Kyl or Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Cornyn of Texas and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma — allege that the offer would appear to violate federal criminal laws, including 18 U.S.C. 600, which prohibits promising a government position “as consideration, favor, or reward for any political activity” or “in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office.”
If I had to guess, I’d say these seven conservative senators are well aware of how blisteringly stupid this is, but desperate political considerations have led to this pointless manufactured outrage.
How misguided is this? Let us count the ways….
1. Given the timeline of events, it’s not even clear that there was a job offer.
2. Even if a job offer was discussed, legal experts — including the chief ethics lawyer for the Bush/Cheney administration — have concluded that there’s nothing scandalous about this. Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor with the Justice Department’s Public Integrity unit, said, “Talk about criminalizing the political process! … It would be horrible precedent if what really truly is political horse-trading were viewed in the criminal context of: is this a corrupt bribe?”
3. Every modern administration — and even plenty of not-so-modern administrations — uses appointment opportunities as leverage in political negotiations. Reagan did it; Clinton did it; Bush did it. The notion that any of this necessitated a special prosecutor is madness. Ron Kaufman, who served as President George H.W. Bush’s White House political director, said, “Tell me a White House that didn’t do this, back to George Washington.”
And just as an aside, the seven Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee really ought to be ashamed of themselves. These same senators saw the Plame scandal, Scooter Libby and his get-out-of-jail-free card, the warrantless-wiretap scandal, the torture memos, the purge of U.S. Attorneys for political reasons, the no-bid Halliburton contracts, the cost estimates of Medicare Part D deliberately hidden from Congress, Interior Department officials literally in bed with oil company officials, the pundits paid to toe the administration’s line in the media without disclosure, the probably illegal fake-news segments the administration created to run on local news outlets without disclosure, the misuse of “faith-based” grants to help Republican congressional candidates, Karl Rove’s campaign “briefings” to federal offices in violation of the Hatch Act, and plenty more alleged crimes committed by the Bush/Cheney gang that I’m probably forgetting.
The seven GOP senators on the Judiciary Committee not only saw no need for a special prosecutor in any of these scandals, but they didn’t even want to hold hearings on the controversies.
And now they literally want to make a federal case out of Sestak’s dubious claim? It’s genuinely pathetic.