Haunting Hillary

That may satisfy Trump voters whipped into a frenzy by his raging rhetoric.

November 16, 2016 21:30
4 minute read.
Donald Trump

Donalld Trump. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Donald Trump campaigned hard against “Crooked Hillary,” vowing to toss her in jail if he became president, a tradition followed by many of the dictators he has expressed admiration for over the past year.

“She should be in prison,” he told supporters chanting “lock her up” at a rally in Manheim, Pennsylvania last month. It was a scene repeated across the country.

That may satisfy Trump voters whipped into a frenzy by his raging rhetoric, but it is an ill omen for a presidency that looks like it will start with a distinctly authoritarian bent, with political opponents branded as criminals and traitors.

Jews, only several generations removed from Hitler’s ovens, know all too well how where that brand of politics can lead.

It also suggests a presidency that will focus more on political payback than on solving the problems Trump promised to address.

No one wants the job of wreaking vengeance on the hated Hillary more than Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and federal prosecutor who is close to Trump and lobbying hard to be attorney general. However, some leaks from the transition team indicate he may wind up being secretary of state; that would let him pursue Clinton while sitting at her old desk.

Trump told 60 Minutes Sunday that he hasn’t given up on his threat to appoint a special prosecutor, but plans to focus initially on immigration and replacing Obamacare. “I’m going to think about it,” he said.

Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, said the threat is still on the table. Omarosa Manigault, Trump’s director of African-American outreach, told a reporter on election night that when it came to enemies, “Mr. Trump has a long memory and we’re keeping a list.”

FBI director James Comey has said repeatedly that his investigators examining Clinton’s emails could find nothing to warrant prosecution nor could any “reasonable prosecutor.”

But that doesn’t mean that Trump’s political appointees at Justice would come to the same conclusion, especially under pressure from the White House. The president could order Justice to appoint a special prosecutor.

Giuliani leaves little doubt that he would love to use the power of the federal government to prosecute Clinton and send her to prison. He publicly cautioned President Barack Obama against giving her a pardon because there are “open” investigations of her email that could go on for years.

He boasted to ABC News in August, “I would have brought such a case. I would have won such a case.”

He also has been harsh in his attacks on Clinton’s health and marriage. A thrice-married admitted adulterer (like Trump), Giuliani said Clinton’s marriage “is fair game,” but his infidelity is not. “I’m a Roman Catholic and I confess those things to my priest,” he explained.

Giuliani isn’t the only Republican hoping to prosecute Clinton. ABC News reports at least five House and Senate committees are planning to continue their investigations in the next Congress.

None more anxious than Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah).

He is drooling at the mouth over the opportunity to hold years of investigative hearings into Clinton’s State Department years in his House Oversight Committee.

“It’s a target-rich environment,” he told The Washington Post. “Even before we get to Day One, we’ve got two years’ worth of material already lined up. She has four years of history at the State Department, and it ain’t good.” He would be “remiss” to drop the case just “because she’s not going to be president,” he said.

Lining up with their own investigations are at least five other Republican-led congressional committees. They can expect backing from Judicial Watch, a right-wing group long obsessed with prosecuting the Clintons.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California), whose boasts about investigating Clinton as a means of undermining her presidential bid cost him the speakership last year, no longer shares their enthusiasm. He wants to focus on creating jobs, he said this week, but he didn’t rule out more Clinton hearings.

Until Tuesday House Republicans had been talking about impeaching Clinton but that doesn’t mean they plan to drop their case. And why not? It is easier to investigate and play demagogue than seriously tackle the problems facing the country. They can get more face time on Fox News making salacious charges against their enemies than talking about rebuilding national infrastructure, rewriting health care and cutting Medicare and Social Security benefits.

“Trump has to be careful not to seem Nixonian and develop his enemies list and destroy opponents,” historian Douglas Brinkley told The Los Angeles Times. “I’m not sure playing to the ‘lock her up’ motif gets him anywhere. It would just be very bad, a terrible precedent to start trying to jail your political opponent after an election.”

But a lot of hotheads in Congress who’d been planning to spend the next four years investigating and impeaching Clinton may not give up easily.

Trump faces a Hobson’s choice. Has he raised expectations among his most fervent backers so high that he must deliver? Can he unite a deeply divided country with prosecution of his opponent who, by the way, got more votes than he did? During the campaign, some Trump apologists insisted his hot rhetoric was just an effort to energize the conservative base. That worked, as the electoral map demonstrates – but it also may imperil the very foundations of American democracy if he and his friends in Congress attempt to use the law to criminalize political opposition.

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