IBTimes first reported on a LinkedIn post of a top Department of Justice official who outlined his reasoning for resigning. The official was Hui Chen, a former Microsoft and Pfizer corporate lawyer who served as the Department of Justice’s compliance counsel since 2015. Chen wrote in the post, “Trying to hold companies to standards that our current administration is not living up to was creating a cognitive dissonance that I could not overcome.” In the wake of her condemnation of the Trump administration, Chen is being hailed as the latest hero of the Trump Resistance, joining other Obama administration attorneys who were fired or resigned under Trump. However, the narratives of their heroism fails to acknowledge that they avoided holding political and corporate officials accountable during the Obama administration. The age of impunity brought in by their complacence and inaction enabled the Trump administration to operate in the manner it does.
“When DOJ officials in charge of helping companies commit fraud during the Obama era get self-righteous now it’s PR,” tweeted Matthew Stoller, fellow at the Open Markets Program at New America, on July 3. “Wells Fargo was openly caught for fraud in Sept. 2016. DOJ fraud division… crickets. Today, Sally Yates is a hero.” He added the heroic image of these officials is “nauseating” and stated that “Jim Comey, Preet Bhahara, Mary Jo White, Sally Yates, Eric Holder, Loretta Lynch, Robert Mueller—they brought forth the real catastrophe.” These figures are lauded solely on the basis of their opposition to Trump, but their actions in office receive little scrutiny. Stoller notes that Trump took advantage of a system created and implemented by these figures. A new book out on July 11 by ProPublica’s Jesse Eisinger, The Chickenshit Club: Why the Justice Department Fails to Prosecute Executives, explains how the Department of Justice ushered in the age of impunity for the wealthy and political elites. Eisinger added to Stoller’s Twitter thread, “Obama DOJ’s creation of this position worried me. It gives corporations another choke point/layer of bureaucracy to lobby.” The Financial Times’ review of the book says it outlines, “An unmistakable decline in the justice department’s willingness and ability to prosecute corporate crime. For the four years 2012-2015, white-collar cases made up just 10 percent of the DOJ’s caseload—roughly one-half the share two decades earlier. ‘The justice system is broken,’ Eisinger concludes, adding that the DoJ in recent years ‘became fearful of losing and lost sight of its fundamental mission to make this country a just place.’ ” Eisinger argues the decline in holding the elite accountable contributed to the political climate that enabled the rise of Donald Trump and impunity for the top 1 percent continues to foster an anti-political environment that increasingly disenfranchises voters.
Obama’s Department of Justice gave elites and corporate criminals a free pass in the wake of one of the biggest financial scandals in American history. Former attorney general Eric Holder failed to prosecute any big bankers in the wake of the 2008 economic recession, while the federal government bailed out the big banks. Bankers treated themselves to bonuses while working, middle class and low income Americans suffered. When Holder left the Department of Justice, he returned to work for a corporate law firm, now representing the clients he refused to prosecute at the DOJ.
Loretta Lynch has recently been under fire for revelations from former FBI Director James Comey that she interfered in the criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server. Comey noted that Lynch told him to refer to the investigation as a “matter.” On June 22, Sen. Diane Feinstein, Sen. Chuck Grassley and the rest of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Loretta Lynch inquiring into any emails or communication she had with former DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz or Clinton staffer Amanda Renteria about the email investigation. The committee also asked Renteria, Leonard Benardo and Gail Scovell of the Open Society Foundations to disclose any conversations they had about the investigation with Loretta Lynch or the FBI. The inquiry stems from what is believed to be a faulty document the Washington Post reported on in May 2017. In the hacked emails released by Wikileaks from Clinton Campaign Chair John Podesta, Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik tipped off Podesta and the Clinton campaign about the Department of Justice’s investigation. “There is a HJC oversight hearing today where the head of our Civil Division will testify. Likely to get questions on State Department emails. Another filing in the FOIA case went in last night or will go in this am that indicates it will be awhile (2016) before the State Department posts the emails,” Kadzik wrote to Podesta in May 2015. Podesta forwarded the email to several Clinton staffers. Kadzik’s tip to Podesta was unethical. In this case, the DOJ was more concerned with protecting her than holding her accountable.
Former New York Federal Prosecutor Preet Bharara was praised as a Trump Resistance hero after the Trump Administration fired him, but he refused to prosecute Wall Street bankers during his tenure even though he had the authority and evidence to do so. Former Prosecutor Bill Black, who successfully put big bankers in jail in the 1980s Savings & Loan Scandal wrote in a March 2017 op-ed, “Wall Street CEOs created, and infest, the swampiest of regions over which Bharara had jurisdiction. They led the epidemics of ‘control fraud’ that hyper-inflated the housing bubble, drove the financial crisis and caused the Great Recession.” He added, “Bharara did not prosecute any of them even when whistleblowers brought him the cases on platinum platters. Indeed, Bharara did not prosecute even low-level bank officers who were minor leaders in implementing those fraud epidemics.”
This type of opposition to Trump and the Republican Party provides little hope that the Democratic Party will be able to protect the American people from their policies. As Preet Bharara said, “Much of the issue with Trump is not about party, policy or ideology, but lack of decency, honesty, character, temperament, adulthood, and shame.” The Democratic Party’s strategy fails to tactfully oppose Trump’s policies. If the Democratic Party fails to come up with policies to counter Trump’s, Republicans will remain in power indefinitely.
In a November 2016 op-ed in The New York Times, Luigi Zingales compares Trump to former Italian prime minister and billionaire Silvio Berlusconi who remained in power for nine years because his opposition fumbled every opportunity to gain leverage over him. “Mr. Berlusconi was able to govern Italy for as long as he did mostly thanks to the incompetence of his opposition. It was so rabidly obsessed with his personality that any substantive political debate disappeared; it focused only on personal attacks, the effect of which was to increase Mr. Berlusconi’s popularity. His secret was an ability to set off a Pavlovian reaction among his leftist opponents, which engendered instantaneous sympathy in most moderate voters. Mr. Trump is no different.” Indeed, rather than embrace their popularity, the Democratic establishment continues shaming and scolding pro-Bernie Sanders progressives to maintain power. Democrats have provided voters with nothing but disappointment since Trump took office and no changes are on the horizon.