Robbins: Democrats scramble to whitewash a scandal of their own
From national security adviser Michael Flynn to Rep. George Santos, former President Donald Trump has promoted, deployed and spawned an epic parade of dishonest lawbreakers in his own mold. Democrats have had a justifiable field day pointing out what can euphemistically be called the “unsuitability” of Trump’s acolytes for public office.
Now it is the Republicans’ turn for a field day. Hours before the release of reports by the Justice Department’s inspector general and the U.S. Office of Special Counsel detailing her arrogant spree of rule-breaking and law-breaking, United States Attorney for the District of Massachusetts Rachael Rollins announced that she would be resigning. The reports documented a series of violations of the Hatch Act — the federal criminal statute prohibiting one in Rollins’ position from using her office for partisan political purposes — as well as ethical rules and the law making it a federal crime to knowingly make false statements under oath. Rollins had committed them all, and with a sense of privilege that made her a poster child for what a federal prosecutor should not be.
It’s the Republicans’ turn to spotlight a disgrace, and the Democrats’ turn, evidently, to attempt to whitewash it. Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Oklahoma had loudly warned about President Joe Biden’s nomination of Rollins to the powerful U.S. Attorney post, pointing out that she demonstrably lacked the temperament and judgment to wield federal prosecutorial power. She had credibly been alleged to have used her position as a local district attorney to bully a motorist and had threatened a reporter who’d had the temerity to ask her about it. “Get out of here!” she reportedly snarled. “You know what I’ll do? I’ll call the police on you and make an allegation. Rantings of a white woman. I swear to God, I’m dead serious. I will find your name. I will have you arrested.”
In his letter to Biden transmitting his report on Rollins’ leaking of confidential Justice Department information in order to help her friend defeat a public official Rollins wanted defeated as well as her insistence on attending a Democratic National Committee fundraiser she had been advised not to attend, the Special Counsel called Rollins’ conduct “among the most egregious transgressions of the (Hatch) Act” his office had ever seen. He described Rollins’ practice of secretly leaking Justice Department information to service her own personal agenda “an extraordinary abuse of her authority, (one which) threatens to erode public confidence in the integrity of federal law enforcement actions.”
But that wasn’t all. When the inspector general interviewed Rollins about what she had done, she lied. Under oath. Repeatedly.
Rollins has splattered egg all over the faces of prominent Democrats who, like everyone else in the progressive establishment, swooned over her, too intimidated by her backers to acknowledge she was unfit to be U.S. Attorney. “She has the values, the vision and the courage,” gushed Sen. Elizabeth Warren at the self-congratulatory, “pay-attention-to-me” extravaganza Rollins threw for herself for her swearing-in. Sen. Ed Markey, Rollins’ other sponsor, blamed the debacle on the president. “We sent the names over to the Biden White House for them to do the vetting,” backpedaled Markey last week, “so we were reliant upon the White House vetting.”
Nor has the Justice Department covered itself in glory. The inspector general referred his findings that Rollins had deliberately lied under oath to the Department in order for it to consider criminal charges. It did so on Dec. 16, 2022. By Jan. 7, 2023, the Department had already declined prosecution. That’s all of 18 days of careful consideration, including Christmas, New Year’s and weekends.
Congressional Republicans will use L’affaire Rollins to blacken those who demand that Trump and his felonious friends be prosecuted, invoking the kid-gloves treatment of Rollins. They will say that “what’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” This will come precisely when the Justice Department will need all of the credibility and public confidence it can muster to prosecute Trump, the most dangerous domestic threat to our democracy the country has ever faced.
Jeff Robbins, a former assistant United States attorney and United States delegate to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, was chief counsel for the minority of the United States Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. An attorney specializing in the First Amendment, he is a longtime columnist for the Boston Herald, writing on politics, national security, human rights and the Mideast.