At this year’s Republican National Convention, nothing seemed to bring the Grand Old Party together more than the thought of putting Hillary Clinton in prison. Now, Donald Trump has revealed a “plan” for how he intends to jail his political rival when he takes power.
The one challenge that any plan for imprisoning Clinton needs to overcome is that she doesn’t seem to have committed a crime. The FBI has already exonerated the Democratic nominee for mishandling some classified information while serving as secretary of State. True, newly released emails have cast some light on the relationship between the Clinton Foundation and Clinton’s State Department. But if these new missives document illegal corruption, then president Trump will probably have to jail the entire Congress: The emails don’t show Hillary Clinton diverting funding from security at the Benghazi embassy to a foundation donor’s beach home. Rather, they suggest that Clinton Foundation donors had an easier time getting their emails answered than other wealthy people seeking the State Department’s help. This is not the kind of cronyism that American politicians go to jail for. At least, not yet.
On Monday night in Ohio, Trump unveiled his plan for clearing this hurdle. The GOP nominee decried the conspiracy between the FBI and Justice Department to “whitewash” Clinton’s use of a private email server, saying, “They certainly cannot be trusted to quickly or impartially investigate Hillary Clinton’s crimes.”
Thus, Trump demanded an “expedited investigation by a special prosecutor” into his rivals misdeeds. “The Clintons made the State Department into the same kind of pay-to-play operation as the Arkansas government was,” the mogul declared.
Granted, Trump’s proposal doesn’t actually “make sense.” Only the Justice Department has the power to appoint a special prosecutor. If Trump is elected, he could, presumably, appoint an attorney general willing to appoint such a prosecutor — but at that point, why wouldn’t Trump just let Attorney General Chris Christie carry out the witch hunt himself?
Nonetheless, the special-prosecutor plan appears to be a central part of Trump’s agenda going forward. After cancelling a series of campaign events on Monday — including a marquee speech on immigration policy — Trump released a revised schedule on Tuesday morning. On the docket: A speech in Austin that aims “to draw national attention to his call for border security as well as the need for a Special Prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s bought and paid for State Department.”
Trump appears to want to round out his “law and order” pitch by casting his opponent as one of the many criminals whom he plans to get tough on. The policy behind this idea is incoherent. And it seems unlikely that Trump can win over moderate voters by further degrading the norms of American politics.
But pushing for a special prosecutor to investigate President Clinton would be a fun activity for Republican back-benchers next January — and a decent story line for the opening weeks of the Trump News Network.