Last time President Obama made a comment on an ongoing investigation, it was Nixonian in its level of error-ridden interference in the judicial process, albeit military justice. He said of Bradley Manning:
“We are a nation of laws — he broke the law!”
At the time, I questioned who in the Administration would counsel Obama to walk back his definitive accusation of law-breaking, considering that Bradley Manning’s judge, prosecutor, and jury are all in his chain of command as President and Commander-in-Chief.
Who would be Barack Obama’s John Mitchell, I wondered then? Who would tell him to walk it back, as John Mitchell told his president after Nixon definitively identified Charles Manson as guilty of murder, leading to four-inch headlines in the LA papers: MANSON GUILTY, NIXON DECLARES.
Whoever that person was on Team Obama, we saw little evidence of his or her handiwork. But now, there’s a need for that person to intervene again on the president’s behalf.
This president hasn’t improved his conversations about ongoing investigations. Last week, he declared that banks hadn’t done anything illegal, and were guilty only of trying to make money using loopholes in the law:
“One of the biggest problems about the collapse of Lehman’s … and the whole sub-prime lending fiasco is that a lot of that stuff wasn’t necessarily illegal, it was just immoral or inappropriate or reckless,” he says. “The financial sector is very creative, and they are always looking for ways to make money. That’s their job.”
Having the President of the United States in their corner, publicly and resolutely stating that the “stuff” banks did “wasn’t necessarily illegal,” may not give a great deal of aid and comfort to middle-class Americans who saw their real estate wealth evaporate. It may not comfort folks illegally evicted from their homes, or those illegally foreclosed upon.
Obama’s words must comfort the comfortable most of all.
What does Obama’s judgment-statement about banks’ behavior mean for the state Attorney Generals’ investigations and pursuit of a settlement in the mortgage and financial fraud that brought down our economy? Worse, what does it say to those Attorneys General who’ve withdrawn from the comprehensive work towards a whitewash settlement? Is Obama passing a clever message to Eric Schneiderman, and Kamala Harris, and Jack Conway, and Catherine Cortez Masto and Beau Biden: back off the investigations of bank and mortgage fraud.
If the banks haven’t broken laws, as Obama claims, shouldn’t these renegade Attorneys General re-join the Tom Miller settlement group, whose efforts seem designed to paper over the banks’ efforts to “make money” with a small fine and a slap on the wrist?
Or, alternatively, shouldn’t President Obama learn not to opine on open investigations?
Maybe he should take a hint from #OccupyWall Street: call for a special prosecutor to investigate the damage America’s banks have done to the middle class. Or perhaps he should take a lesson from Elizabeth Warren and vocalize the real frustrations of the middle class, whom he claims to speak for:
The people on Wall Street broke this country, and they did it one lousy mortgage at a time. It happened more than three years ago, and there has been no real accountability, and there has been no real effort to fix it.
Obama certainly shouldn’t be giving banksters a pass, and pre-judging the investigations of their misdeeds, by saying in front of the press and everybody in the White House that “that stuff wasn’t necessarily illegal.”
Let’s find out first, shall we, Mr President?