- - Thursday, May 19, 2016


Ask the average voter what he really knows about the presidential front-runners and his likely answer is probably not much that matters.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump get lots of attention from the television network news shows, but their shallow reporting isn’t known for digging into their secret, shadowy transgressions.

That job has usually fallen to our nation’s newspapers, which have the journalistic resources, talent and the space to scour deeply into the candidates’ hidden lives, warts and all. The Watergate scandal sent high-level officials to prison and forced Richard Nixon to resign the presidency.

With little more than five months remaining in the 2016 elections, there is growing evidence that a full-court press attack has begun on Donald Trump.

In the past week, The New York Times rolled out a 5,000-word investigative piece, based on hundreds of interviews, on Donald Trump’s relationships with women, going back to his college days.

And this week it was revealed that The Washington Post is mounting an aggressive investigation into Mr. Trump’s entire life in what the paper intends to turn into a book-length, scandal-breaking biography.

Post reporter Bob Woodward of Watergate fame said the newspaper has assigned 20 reporters to the story, with marching orders to explore every nook and cranny of the real estate mogul’s business deals, finances, relationships, back-room skullduggery, lawsuits, taxes and the wealthy people behind his presidential bid.

The go-ahead for the unprecedented investigation came directly from Amazon.com founder Jeffrey P. Bezos, who owns The Washington Post and is embroiled in a bitter war of words with Mr. Trump over his decision to conduct a full-scale inquiry into the candidate’s past.

Last week, in a Fox News interview hosted by Sean Hannity, the TV reality show celebrity went after Mr. Bezos, accusing him of “getting away with murder, tax-wise. He’s using The Washington Post for power so that politicians in Washington don’t tax Amazon like they should be taxed.”

Obviously irked by the power of The Washington Post’s reportorial resources to conduct an exhaustive investigation into his personal and business affairs, Mr. Trump says he doesn’t like the constant calls his office is getting from the newspaper.

“Every hour, we’re getting calls from reporters from The Washington Post asking ridiculous questions, and I will tell you, this is owned as a toy by Jeff Bezos .”

“Amazon is controlling so much of what they’re doing,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Hannity. “And what they’ve done is he bought this paper for practically nothing, and he’s using that as a tool for political power against me and … other people, and I’ll tell you what — we can’t let him get away with it.”

Mr. Bezos responded in an appearance at a technology conference sponsored by his paper that he “had no worries” about Amazon being examined about its taxes. But he added, “It’s critical that we be able to carefully examine our leaders.”

The newspaper denied that Mr. Bezos had any role in the decision to launch its ambitious investigation.

But there is no doubt that The Post’s owner supported the paper’s decision to target so much of its investigative resources on Mr. Trump.

“We want a society where any of us, any individual or institution, if they choose to, can scrutinize, examine and criticize a candidate for the highest office in the most powerful country on earth,” Mr. Bezos said.

But what about Hillary’s obsessively secretive past and the scandals that have plagued her career, including the Clintons’ shady investments in their Arkansas Whitewater real estate deal; her bungled health care plan that was so bad that Democrats refused to vote on it; her failure to obtain needed U.S. security at our consulate in Benghazi, where terrorists killed our ambassador and three other Americans; and the classified materials she irresponsibly sent using a secret, unsecured, private email account during her four years at the State Department.

The FBI and other investigative agencies are still digging into the email scandal, which is being characterized as a “criminal probe.” They’re questioning Mrs. Clinton’s top aides and advisers and searching for documents, many of which she said were personal and that she later deleted.

“So far, investigators have found scant evidence tying Clinton to criminal wrongdoing, though they are still probing the case aggressively and charges have not been ruled out,” The Washington Post reported recently.

A former State Department official who had worked on setting up Mrs. Clinton’s private email server has been given immunity for his cooperation in the investigation.

Meanwhile, Mr. Woodward, The Post reported, said Mr. Bezos “has urged the newspaper to produce multiple stories” — from 15-part to 20-part series — on “who the eventual nominee will be in both parties we want to look at every part of their lives .”

But don’t be surprised if the newspaper’s emphasis will be on Mr. Trump. It is a diehard Democratic news organ that, with rare exceptions, supports liberal Democrats. And it will most likely endorse Mrs. Clinton in the general election.

But the 2016 presidential election is still a bizarre work in progress, with many unexpected twists and turns ahead of it.

Turn a couple of dozen zealous reporters loose, with a lot of inside sources who know the candidates’ dirty little secrets, and today’s front-runner could be tomorrow’s loser.

Donald Lambro is a syndicated columnist and contributor to The Washington Times.

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