In 2011, the Guardian ran a headline about former CIA Director and retired Gen. David Petraeus, “Petraeus in profile: the man who could be president,” that speculated he might run for President in 2016 as a Republican candidate.
But it was not to be. A year later, after the terrorist attacks at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012, it was revealed that Petraeus had an extramarital affair with his biographer beginning in 2011 who exchanged messages in a draft folder using Petraeus’ secure email account. When discovered, Petraeus resigned as CIA Director in Nov. 2012 and later pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of mishandling classified information.
And that was the end of Gen. Petraeus’ political career before it ever began.
In 2014, it was discovered that Hillary Clinton was using her private email server at her home to route classified emails to her smartphone as a matter of convenience, leading to Congressional and State Department and eventually FBI inquiries over her own handling of classified information, leading to former FBI Director James Comey to opt not to pursue any charges of Clinton in July 2016.
In Oct. 2016, Comey then reopened the case right before the election in light of additional emails discovered on former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) computer from his ex-wife, Huma Abedin, who was Clinton’s campaign vice chair. This was reported publicly, and might have partially tipped the 2016 election to former President Donald Trump.
The same year, the FBI opened an investigation of then candidate Trump, on fake charges that he was a Russian agent. It turns out, Clinton, who was running against Trump, and her campaign had hired Perkins Coie, Fusion GPS and ultimately former British spy Christopher Steele to produce the allegations, based on false sources, that Trump and his campaign had conspired with Moscow to hack the DNC and put its emails onto Wikileaks.
The information was published before the election a couple of times, but it wasn’t until after the election that the top secret investigation went into full throttle and was carried through the presidential transition and into the Trump administration. Within weeks, Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn had been removed after it was revealed he had communicated with the Russian ambassador Sergei Kisylak during the transition in a bid to deescalate tensions between Moscow and Washington and prevent war (one we’re presently on the brink of, by the way). By March 2017, Trump’s Attorney General Jeff Sessions had recused himself, Trump fired Comey and then Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to carry on the investigation.
Mueller found there was no Trump campaign conspiracy with Russia to hack the DNC and give the emails to Wikileaks. According to Mueller’s final report in 2019 to the Attorney General, “the evidence was not sufficient to charge that any member of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with representatives of the Russian government to interfere in the 2016 election.”
The report added, “In particular, the Office did not find evidence likely to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Campaign officials such as Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos, and Carter Page acted as agents of the Russian government — or at its direction, control or request — during the relevant time period.”
As a result, in 2020, outgoing Attorney General William Barr appointed Special Counsel John Durham to investigate the legal predicate for that investigation, which he says wasn’t there.
After the President Joe Biden’s election in 2020, then outgoing President Trump, in a bid to facilitate that investigation and also public knowledge about how the Justice Department had abused its power, on Jan. 19, 2021, declassified a trove of documents related to the Russiagate investigation.
The Justice Department led by Attorney General Merrick Garland has since refused to turn the documents over to the public, and has since appointed Special Counsel Jack Smith to investigate Trump—again—for something every president has the power to do, and that’s to classify or declassify information at his discretion under Article II of the Constitution. Trump had classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and has argued he declassified them before he left office.
In Garland’s Nov. 18 announcement of the appointment of the special counsel, Trump’s Nov. 15 announcement he was running for president in the constitutionally prescribed 2024 election was the rationale for the heightened criminal investigation.
Garland stated, “Based on recent developments, including the former President’s announcement that he is a candidate for President in the next election, and the sitting President’s stated intention to be a candidate as well, I have concluded that it is in the public interest to appoint a Special Counsel.” Here, Garland admitted that the justification for the special counsel was political: Trump and Biden are running against each other in the next election.
In order for a special counsel to be appointed, according to 28 C.F.R. 600.1, the Attorney General must determine “that [a] criminal investigation of a person or matter is warranted and… investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney’s Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances…”
Why, if there’s a presidential election that might involve candidates who might run against one another, the public interest, naturally, is there must be another round of Justice Department investigations. Heck, it’s only been more than 10 years of this.
Even the sitting president, Joe Biden, is now embroiled in a very similar controversy as the FBI engaged in yet another search of President Biden’s Wilmington, Del. Home, turning up more classified documents, this time from Biden’s time as U.S. Senator prior to 2009 when he became Vice President.
This comes atop documents found at a think tank then Vice President Biden used for office space from 2017 to 2019, the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement with some of them related to Ukraine, the United Kingdom and Iran. More documents from his time in the Obama administration were found in his home.
So, the past decade, the Justice Department has had classified documents and other top secret criminal and counterintelligence cases against two presidential candidates, two presidents, a former president and a former CIA director who might have been a presidential contender, all of which have impacted the outcomes of at least the past two elections, and now it will ultimately have bearing on the outcome of the 2024 election, which might pit Biden against Trump again. A definitive pattern has emerged.
Maybe the first in the nation primary shouldn’t be in New Hampshire, Iowa or South Carolina. Perhaps it should just be at the J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington, D.C. so that candidates can obtain the consent of the government. It’s an unconstitutional abomination, and has no place in a representative republic, but it might be a more accurate reflection of how are leaders are actually being chosen right now.
Robert Romano is the Vice President of Public Policy at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.