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- Barack Obama is the only president since Nixon who didn’t have to deal with an independent investigation. Former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford all faced investigations into their activities or the activities of their associates. The observation comes as President Donald Trump is under investigation, along with his closest associates, as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
Former President Barack Obama is the only president since Richard Nixon who didn’t have to deal with an independent investigation into his activities or the activities of his family or subordinates, according to Politico.
The detail comes as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates President Donald Trump and his associates as part of his inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Trump is being investigated for obstruction of justice related to his decision to fire former FBI director James Comey, and the special counsel is also looking into Trump’s decision to dictate a misleading statement his son, Donald Trump Jr., released in response to reports that he met with a Russian lawyer said to be offering dirt on opponent Hillary Clinton last June, at the height of the campaign.
Several of Trump’s close associates, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, are also being investigated over their ties to Russia.
As he grapples with the Russia probe, Trump joins former presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford, who all dealt with independent investigations.
Vice President Ford assumed the presidency shortly after Nixon resigned, following the bombshell revelation that Nixon had not only been aware of the break-in at Democratic National Committee headquarters in 1972, but had attempted to cover it up. When Ford assumed the presidency, the Watergate scandal still loomed large and the investigation had not yet been closed.
Ford’s administration also drew criticism when it was revealed that senior White House officials altered large portions of the Rockefeller Commission’s investigation into the Central Intelligence Agency’s activities. Most significantly, then deputy White House chief of staff Dick Cheney ordered the removal of an 86-page section on CIA assassination plots, according to the National Security Agency’s archives.
President Carter attracted scrutiny when it emerged in 1979 that his family’s peanut business had received questionable loans, and that Carter may have used some of that money as campaign funds in 1976. Paul J. Curran, a renown former US attorney, was eventually appointed special counsel in charge of investigating the allegations.
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Following a seven-month investigation, Curran concluded there was no basis for criminal prosecution. Carter’s chief of staff, Hamilton Jordan, and campaign manager, Tim Kraft, were also investigated for separate drug-related offenses in 1978 and 1980, respectively, by two special prosecutors.
Reagan’s presidency was marred by several scandals, the largest of which was the Iran-Contra affair. Details of the incident, which involved the US’ decision to sell arms to Iran in an effort to secure the release of six US hostages, first came to light in November 1986.
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In addition to congressional inquiries, the Reagan-appointed Tower Commission also probed the scandal and cleared the president of any wrongdoing. Independent counsel Lawrence Walsh’s investigation into the Iran-Contra affair resulted in the convictions of Vice Admiral John Poindexter and Lt. Colonel Oliver North, though both convictions were later overturned.
Several high-ranking members of Reagan’s Department of Housing and Urban Development were also scrutinized over allegations that they had rigged low-income housing grants, by independent counsels Arlin Adams and Larry Thompson from 1990 to 1998. The investigation resulted in several convictions, but HUD secretary Samuel Pierce Jr., described as one of the key players in the controversy, was not charged after he made a public apology.
George H.W. Bush’s administration came under the spotlight when several administration officials were accused of secretly facilitating the flow of weapons, technology, and support to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq war in 1992.
Federal officials were also separately accused of corruption related to their dealings with an international bank in Italy. Retired federal judge Frederick B. Lacey was named special counsel in charge of investigating both matters, and he determined that no federal crime had been committed in either case.
Two defining events of Bill Clinton’s presidency were the Whitewater investigation and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, both of which took place in the 1990s. The former involved an inquiry into the business dealings of Bill and Hillary Clinton relating to the Whitewater Development Corporation.
The Clintons were accused of pressuring Arkansas banker David Hale into granting an illegal loan to their partner in the Whitewater deal. The allegations were first investigated by the Senate, and later by special prosecutor Kenneth Starr. Neither of them were indicted.
The House of Representatives impeached Clinton in 1998 after being accused of perjury and obstruction of justice related to his sexual relationship with Lewinsky, a White House intern. He was acquitted of all charges following a trial in the Senate.
George W. Bush invited controversy of his own when it emerged in 2003 that administration officials leaked the identity of CIA covert officer Valerie Plame to members of the press. Plame was married to Joseph Wilson, a former diplomat and staunch critic of the Iraq War.
Attorney General John Ashcroft recused himself from investigating the matter and handed the decision off to then-deputy attorney general James Comey. Comey appointed US attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as special prosecutor in charge of overseeing the probe.
No one was charged with leaking Plame’s identity to the press, but Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, I. Lewis Libby, known as Scooter Libby, was charged and convicted of obstruction of justice and lying. Bush eventually commuted Libby’s sentence.
During his eight years in office, Obama avoided legal prosecution, and wasn’t investigated by any special counsels, breaking a 36-year stretch that dated back to Watergate.