Ralph Waldo Emerson once famously said that “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.” If so, then as a lawyer committed to the rule of law, I confess to having a little mind, though I like to think my consistency is not foolish.
Earlier this week, I signed a letter (along with a growing number—now more than 600—of other former federal prosecutors) expressing the view that the facts recounted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report to Attorney General William Barr were in many cases (the letter lists three) sufficient to have warranted criminal charges against President Donald Trump for obstruction of justice. For me, the question was one of intellectual consistency. Having held President Bill Clinton to this standard 20 years ago, I could not, in good conscience, decline to apply the same standard to President Trump.
Call it, if you will, the Betty Currie test.
Currie was Clinton’s personal secretary. (For The West Wing fans, she was his Mrs. Landingham.) And Clinton, of course, was suspected of having had a sexual relationship with one of his interns, Monica Lewinsky.
On the day after he first became aware that his relationship with Lewinsky was under scrutiny, Clinton called Currie into work (it was a Sunday). And when she arrived, he said to her, “There are several things you may want to know,” and then proceeded to make several statements, in the form of “questions” to Currie. Referring to Lewinsky, Clinton said:
- “You were always there when she was there, right? We were never really alone.”
- “You could see and hear everything.”
- “Monica came on to me, and I never touched her, right?”