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4:24, 11 December 2017

The FBI’s credibility is taking yet another blow as the probe of Bernie Sanders’ wife continues


Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders and his wife are nonetheless in difficulty with the FBI.

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But it is the American folks who are truly in trouble.

A new report from a local Vermont publication, which has been all over the story, suggests that the FBI’s probe of Jane Sanders for her part in alleged bank fraud is far from more than. Witnesses are nonetheless becoming interviewed and a grand jury may soon be impaneled.

Sanders is in the middle of accusations that while she was president of Burlington College, she and other administrators misled bank loan officers about the true quantity of donations pledged to the college. These false figures had been utilized to secure a loan for a key campus expansion that flopped and led to the college’s closing in 2016.

It very first came to light back in May of this year that the FBI was seeking into the matter, and had begun to do so whilst Barack Obama was nonetheless president. At the time, it was the initial sign of difficulty for Sanders’ brand as an above-reproach progressive.

His political fortunes are now nonetheless in jeopardy. But beyond Bernie’s future, this story is the newest example of the critical threat to the credibility of America’s federal law enforcement system.

Back when this story first emerged, it was currently anything attorney Alan Dershowitz called a dangerous instance of a tit-for-tat political use of the FBI to criminalize politics. At that point, it seemed like Dershowitz may well be obtaining ahead of himself: It looks far more like that assessment was on the income.

Now we know this probe is nonetheless going on, as is the widening and expanding scope of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 election.

It’s not that the crimes or alleged crimes in these situations are not essential. But only the most naive observer would keep these probes aren’t at least somewhat politically motivated. And you’d have to be similarly naive not to notice that one thing has changed in American politics and federal law enforcement in the final several years.

What’s changed is that an old deal that helped America avoid this sort of banana republic nonsense has been broken. Essentially, that deal went like this: Every single 4 years, the voters got to choose the winners and losers in the national political arena. The winners got the spoils of energy, and in return for the losers going away relatively quietly, they have been largely spared from politically-motivated legal punishment.

But then we discovered in 2013 that the IRS was wrongly targeting conservative and Tea Celebration groups with audits and other bureaucratic red tape.

Then we had Hillary Clinton’s refusal to go quietly soon after her election loss in 2016. She’s spent a lot of the year since the election in full outcry mode, and even pushed out a new book total with a national tour. Her refusal to slink off much more quietly — as John Kerry, Michael Dukakis, Mitt Romney and other people did — has led to a number of exclusive results. One particular of them is that new FBI Director Chris Wray hinted Thursday that Clinton could nonetheless be charged for her email scandal. That certainly looks like a lot more tit-for-tat.

This was exactly the kind of broken deal that brought down President Richard Nixon. His attempted use of federal tools to punish his enemies and cover up his own crimes not only forced his resignation, but it came with overwhelming bipartisan approval at the time.

But with the increasing perception at least by non-Democrats that the Mueller probe is tainted, it seems much less probably any conclusion his group comes to will be accepted by any strong majority. The latest Rasmussen Reports poll shows that just 35 percent of Republicans and just 46 % of independents think Mueller is conducting an impartial investigation.

Those numbers look likely to get a lot worse now that a lot more stories about the partisan political activities of members of his group are leaking out. And polls like this are a brutal commentary on the existing political climate as a entire.

Now none of us ought to shed any tears for Clinton, Jane Sanders or even Trump if they are discovered guilty of any real crimes. That’s not the point. But it is worth crying more than an entire set of federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies that are becoming significantly less and less credible each day.

In the Sanders case, it really is not that the probe must be dropped. But it is problematic that this comparatively simple case involving just one particular little erstwhile college and a modest bank is taking so lengthy to resolve. It seems to have begun just as Senator Sanders was difficult then-President Obama’s chosen successor, Hillary Clinton. It continues just as Sanders is becoming an enduring thorn in the present president’s side.

This seems to make the probe’s extended shelf life clearly a lot more about politics than something else. Enjoy or hate Bernie Sanders, that is basically not right.

At some point in this hazardous game of chicken, somebody needs to quit the political vendettas and place issues right. That moment seems less most likely to come about than ever correct now.

Commentary by Jake Novak, CNBC.com senior columnist. Comply with him on Twitter @jakejakeny.

For a lot more insight from CNBC contributors, stick to @CNBCopinion on Twitter.

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