If you commit crimes, you should be punished.

President Trump has repeatedly labeled the investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation a “witch hunt.”

I’m not so sure about that.

If Trump or folks on his campaign worked with Russians to undermine the election process, they should be held accountable, no matter who they are.

No argument.

And it seems as if the special counsel is leaving no stone unturned to get to the bottom of it.

I do think it’s a little weird that so far nobody’s got into any trouble over colluding with Russians, but time will tell.

And I do think it was unusual that the special counsel decree was as broad as it was.

When Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced the appointment of the special counsel, he ordered the investigation of “any links and/or coordination between the Russian government and individuals associated with the campaign of President Donald Trump”; and “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation”; and “any other matters within the scope of 28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a).”

(28 C.F.R. § 600.4(a) is part of a statute that talks about the jurisdiction of the attorney general to appoint special counsels.)

But according to that statute, special counsels are supposed to be triggered by a “criminal investigation of a person or matter,” where there’s some level of conflict of interest that requires someone from outside the government to conduct the criminal investigation.

Like Whitewater back in the Clinton days.

Alleged crimes were being investigated with regard to the Whitewater real estate development that involved Bill and Hillary Clinton.

But in this case, there was no criminal investigation. Rosenstein’s order didn’t disclose any basis for a criminal investigation or spell out any crimes that had allegedly been committed.

Basically, instead of saying “go investigate this alleged crime,” it said, “go see if any crimes were committed.”

And the part that said “any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation” is why we’re now into Paul Manafort’s taxes, Michael Cohen’s taxi medallions and a $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels.

(Remember when Bill Clinton settled with Paula Jones for $850,000? Sounds like Stormy got a raw deal.)

Back in the Watergate days, anytime Special Counsel Kenneth Starr wanted to expand his probe, he kept going back to the Justice Department to get approval. Maybe that’s happening now, but if it is, it’s not widely reported. Seems like Mueller is pretty freewheeling.

While it may seem as if the special counsel statute got broadly interpreted in this whole Russian collusion case, I can live with that, as long as justice is served.

If laws were broken, people need to be held to account.

What I find troubling is the jarring double standard applied during such procedures, depending on who the target is, and who’s doing the investigating.

Why in the world wasn’t a special counsel appointed to look into Hillary Clinton’s mishandling of classified information?

In that case, there was clear evidence of a crime and an overt conflict of interested. She was secretary of state serving in the same administration with FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

It’s a textbook example of what should trigger appointment of a special counsel.

Here’s what Rosenstein said when he appointed Mueller:

“Each year, the career professionals of the U.S. Department of Justice conduct tens of thousands of criminal investigations and handle countless other matters without regard to partisan political considerations. I have great confidence in the independence and integrity of our people and our processes. Considering the unique circumstances of this matter, however, I determined that a Special Counsel is necessary in order for the American people to have full confidence in the outcome. “

Fair enough. But wouldn’t that same standard apply to the investigation of a former U.S. senator and secretary of state who was playing fast and loose with classified information on a homebaked email server?

Guess not.

And not only did they not consider appointing a special counsel, but the investigation of Clinton was not nearly as, shall we say, robust, as the Mueller probe.

Far from it.

Did anybody get a search warrant and take control of the Clinton email server?


The FBI allowed Clinton and her attorneys to delete all the “personal” stuff first, even after it had been subpoenaed.

Some of Clinton’s staff literally smashed Blackberrys with hammers.

Does that sound like the type of thing Mueller would have allowed?

Far from arming themselves with search warrants and raiding the houses, offices, apartments and hotels of Clinton confidants, they granted them immunity.

Longtime Clinton aide Cheryl Mills got an immunity deal from the Justice Department. As did Clinton’s top I.T. staffer Bryan Pagliano. He’s the guy who set up the server. Then there was Platte River Networks engineer Paul Combetta. He’s the guy who erased Clinton’s email archive days after news of her email use became public. And John Bentel, a tech staffer at the State Department who told his subordinates never to speak of Clinton’s email when they raised concerns.

And these immunity deals didn’t require these potential witnesses to cooperate with Congress. According to reporting on Politico.com, lots of times immunity agreements like these “include language forcing the recipients to answer other investigative entities, but the Justice deals did not.”

Usually, you’re granted immunity so you’ll cooperate with investigators, but the FBI got nothing from these people.

And why would they? Most of the people directly involved got immunity.

Then we find out there were 300,000 Clinton emails on the laptop belonging to Anthony Weiner, then-husband of Clinton gal Friday Huma Abedin. Comey assured us all the emails were investigated. Turns out only 3,000 of them were.

I could go on and on and on.

Make no mistake. I am not against rooting out corruption. By all means, if Trump colluded with Russians, bust him. Investigate. Get to the bottom of it.

But can we please apply the same level of scrutiny to every potentially shady politician?