Team Trump's latest Clinton investigation ending with a whimper

At Trump's urging, the Justice Department apparently scrutinized the Clinton Foundation and Uranium One. The probe "effectively ended with no tangible results."
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By Steve Benen

As recently as last week, Donald Trump addressed an evangelical audience in Miami, where the president focused his attention on his 2016 rival. "Crooked Hillary, as she is affectionately known, and she is crooked," Trump said. "There's no doubt about that."

As recently as last night, the president headlined a rally in Ohio, where he referenced "Crooked Hillary" three times and told his followers that the former secretary of State should be incarcerated.

Shortly before Trump took the stage, however, the Washington Post published an interesting report on the state of the administration's latest, and perhaps final, anti-Clinton investigation.

A Justice Department inquiry launched more than two years ago to mollify conservatives clamoring for more investigations of Hillary Clinton has effectively ended with no tangible results, and current and former law enforcement officials said they never expected the effort to produce much of anything.

John Huber, the U.S. attorney in Utah, was tapped in November 2017 by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into concerns raised by President Trump and his allies in Congress that the FBI had not fully pursued cases of possible corruption at the Clinton Foundation and during Clinton's time as secretary of state, when the U.S. government decided not to block the sale of a company called Uranium One.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of the investigation is its existence. Trump's attorney general appears to have launched a politically motivated probe into Clinton, after her 2016 defeat, examining discredited conspiracy theories.

In early November 2017, the president published a tweet that read, "Everybody is asking why the Justice Department (and FBI) isn't looking into all of the dishonesty going on with Crooked Hillary & the Dems." Soon after, the Justice Department began pursuing anti-Clinton lines of inquiry frequently peddled by Republicans.

In theory, this isn't how federal law enforcement is supposed to work. Nevertheless, in this instance, the Justice Department went after Clinton anyway, and reportedly came up with nothing.

The Post's article added, The effective conclusion of [John Huber's] investigation, with no criminal charges or other known impacts, is likely to roil some in the GOP who had hoped the prosecutor would vindicate their long-held suspicions about a political rival."

Well, yes, I imagine that's true. Assorted partisans are bound to be disappointed when they harbor irrational beliefs about a former opponent, and those beliefs are knocked down by evidence and scrutiny.

That said, Republicans should probably be used to feeling frustration in this area. The FBI investigated Hillary Clinton's email server protocols and found no crimes. The State Department also launched a related multi-year investigation, which ended a few months ago with the same results.

Now a Justice Department investigation into the Clinton Foundation, Uranium One, and the probe into the former cabinet secretary's email server is ending with a whimper, too.

And yet, there was the sitting president, 12 hours ago, not only falsely accusing Clinton of corruption, but once again calling for her to be "locked up" for reasons unknown.

The problem is not just retrospective. The right manufactured assorted scandals about Clinton, and the American electorate was told these controversies were both legitimate and meaningful, to the point that they helped shape the outcome of a national election. They were even treated as serious enough to warrant the scrutiny of federal law enforcement.

It's a near-certainty that the same partisan players will engage in similar bad-faith tactics this year, which makes it all the more important that there's some reflection and reckoning in the wake of the mistakes of the last several years.

MORE: Today's Maddowblog