‘Lock her up’ puts Trump in political bind
Prosecuting Clinton imperils bid to unify
WASHINGTON—“Lock her up!” was his supporters’ fervent cry.
But it’s Donald Trump who may find himself in political shackles, stuck between his followers’ yearning to put Hillary Clinton in jail and his expressed desire to unite a fractured country after an election in which he lost the popular vote.
The tension is not likely to dissipate any time soon.
After having pledged to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton, Trump faces a dilemma: He can either drop the matter and risk angering his supporters, or charge ahead with a criminal inquiry targeting his vanquished political foe, something never before done in U.S. history.
“It’s a tough decision,” former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Trump adviser and a top choice to be the next attorney gen- eral, told CNN on Thursday. “I don’t know what the right answer to that is. It’s a tough one that ought to be given a lot of thought.”
The answer, of course, rests with Trump.
The president-elect may have signaled his intentions to forgo an investigation when he told supporters during his victory address that the country owed Clinton “a major debt of gratitude for her service.”
That doesn’t sound like what you would say when you are about to seek a special prosecutor, according to legal experts and political consultants. Trump is surely cognizant, they said, of the immense political and legal hurdles of forging ahead.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal published online Friday, Trump suggested he had higher priorities. “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve health care, jobs, border control, tax reform,” he A young supporter of Donald Trump dresses as Hillary Clinton in a prison jumpsuit during a rally. While campaigning, Trump vowed to appoint a special prosecutor to probe Clinton. said.
A prosecution of Clinton for mishandling classified material on a private email server while secretary of state would certainly inflame Democrats and anger independent voters wishing for nothing more than to put the nightmare of the 2016 campaign behind them.
It would also become campaign fodder in the 2018 midterm election and might distract f rom Trump’s efforts to build a wall on the border of Mexico and repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Is there a backlash to him reopening this? There would be,” said Reed Galen, a Republican strategist. “This country is so highly divided along political lines. Are you really going to antagonize 160 million Americans for the purposes of making the other 160 million happy?”
“If I were advising him, and I am certainly not, I would tell him to take the (victory) speech he gave and allow the Clintons to fade into American political history,” Galen said.
Douglas Brinkley, a best- selling author and historian at Rice University, said appointing a special prosecutor would be unprecedented and draw comparisons to the well-known vindictive streak of President Richard Nixon.
“Trump has to be careful not to seem Nixonian and develop his enemies list and destroy opponents,” Brinkley said. “I think he has his hands full with building a wall, and 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