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  • Robert Farago

What About Whataboutism?

Power trumps accountability

It seems pretty clear that Donald Trump mishandled classified documents. It’s absolutely clear that Hillary Clinton erased classified emails from an illegal, insecure server and physically destroyed suspect cell phones – after Congress issued a subpoena for both. What about that?

What about that? The law is the law! Just because The Secretary of State wasn’t prosecuted for obstruction of justice doesn’t render the relevant criminal statute moot. Hillary skating doesn’t mean Donald Trump should be able to lace-up.

The outrage I get. The different federal response to two roughly similar document mishandling cases is maddening – to the point where critics have called on the judge to toss Trump’s case as an example of selective prosecution.

Unfortunately for equal justice warriors, selective prosecution doesn’t mean what common sense suggests it means. wikipedia:

The U.S. Supreme Court has defined the term as: "A selective prosecution claim is not a defense on the merits to the criminal charge itself, but an independent assertion that the prosecutor has brought the charge for reasons forbidden by the Constitution.” The defense is rarely successful…
In United States v. Armstrong (1996), the Supreme Court ruled the Attorney General and United States Attorneys "retain 'broad discretion' to enforce the Nation's criminal laws” and that "in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary, courts presume that they have properly discharged their official duties.

Presuming that U.S. Attorney General Merritt Garland, Special Prosecutor Jack Smith and U.S. Attorneys color between the lines is like presuming a jacked WWE wrestler doesn’t take steroids.

Be that as it is, the government is free to investigate and/or prosecute someone for political reasons – as long as the investigation and prosecution are performed legally. And so they have, ever since ever. For example…

After shepherding the Espionage Age of 1917 through Congress, President Woodrow Wilson signed the statute into law and used it to, well, does this sound familiar?

A year after the Act's passage, Eugene V. Debs, Socialist Party presidential candidate in 1904, 1908, and 1912 was arrested and sentenced to 10 years in prison for making a speech that "obstructed recruiting". He ran for president again in 1920 from prison.

It should ring a bell. The U.S. Justice Department is using the Espionage Act to prosecute 2024 presidential candidate Donald Trump. What about that?

Nothing. Even if the President’s lawyers convince the jury “they’re picking on him!” Trump’s twelve peers are charged with ruling on the facts of the case, not its motivation.

Don’t get me wrong. Trump defenders asking “What about Hillary?” are fully justified. The presidential prosecution highlights blatant hypocrisy: one standard of justice for a Republican troublemaker, none for a Democratic insider. And?

I pesci grossi mangiano i piccini. The big fish eat the little fish.

Hillary avoided accountability because she swims with the leviathans. Donnie is facing jail because he schools with the little people.

With rare exceptions, that’s the world we live in. What about it?

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