“Lock her up!”
It was a common chant on the campaign trail and one that the President-Elect was more than fine with encouraging (much to the consternation of the press). From Chris Christie’s mock prosecution through Trump’s offhand comment in the Second Presidential Debate, the issue of whether a President Trump would prosecute Hillary Clinton remained an open question. Until today. Now, it seems like the “promise” or “threat” (depending on your view of the issue) to appoint a special prosecutor to look into the misdeeds to Hillary Clinton will not come to pass.
While this has ruffled the feathers of those on the far-right who have demanded the (figurative) blood of the former First Lady and Secretary of State, the decision of Mr. Trump, expressed by senior advisor Kelleyanne Conway, was definitely the correct one.
Let’s be abundantly clear, regardless of the improprieties that may have been committed by Hillary Clinton and the Clinton Foundation, the optics of coming into office and immediately prosecuting your vanquished opponent is somewhere on the spectrum between petty tyranny and actual tyranny. This isn’t to diminish the potentially very real, potentially criminal, undertakings of the Clintons and their cronies. However, Mr. Trump has to govern the country. The Clintons are out of power and their allies are deserting them. In short, there’s really no reason to drag out the grudge.
Now, sure, House and Senate Republicans could, if they chose, continue to investigate Hillary Clinton and all of her associated baggage. But, as Conway noted, “I think when the President-elect, who’s also the head of your party, tells you before he’s even inaugurated that he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone, and content to [Congress].”
Could Donald Trump have instructed Jeff Sessions, as Attorney General, to open up prosecution of Hillary Clinton? The legality is probably dubious. The more important question is: would you prefer President Trump using his political capital settling a grudge or passing a budget/bringing jobs back/repealing and replacing Obamacare, etc.?
Sure, it may fly in the face of some of the hardcore Trump supporters who actually anticipated that Mr. Trump would, personally, cart Hillary out of Chappaqua in handcuffs, but it’s the politically smart thing to do. Yes, vendettas are fun and cathartic, but there’s really nothing to be gained (I doubt Hillary is going to make another go of it in 2020).
So, Congressional Republicans should fall in line: get to governing. It seems like the President-Elect, at least on this issue, is ready to look to the future.