Former Trump campaign manager and current transition-team advisor Kellyanne Conway said on Sunday that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid “should be very careful” regarding his post-election comments criticizing President-elect Donald Trump, and seemed to at least partially imply that Reid might face legal consequences as a result. Her comment came during an interview with Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, following a discussion about the protests across the country in response to Trump’s election, and how Conway hoped that Americans would come together to support their new president. Wallace then asked Conway to respond to Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s scathing statement last week that “If this is going to be a time of healing, we must first put the responsibility for healing where it belongs: at the feet of Donald Trump, a sexual predator who lost the popular vote and fueled his campaign with bigotry and hate.”
I find Harry Reid’s public comments and insults about Donald Trump and other Republicans to be beyond the pale. They’re incredibly disappointing. […] And he should be very careful about characterizing somebody in a legal sense. He thinks he’s just being some kind of political pundit there, but I would say be very careful about the way you characterize it.
Pressed by Wallace on whether she was saying that Trump might sue Reid over his comments, Conway responded, “No, I’m not suggesting that at all,” but that she was expecting “responsibility and maturity and decency” from Reid regarding the election’s aftermath.
The perception that Conway was making some kind of veiled legal threat was also not lost on Reid, however, whose office quickly responded with a statement:
In only took five days for President-elect Trump to try and silence his critics with the threat of legal action. This should shock and concern all Americans. Trump has always used threats of intimidation to silence his critics. Now he wants to silence a discussion of the acts of hate and threats of violence being committed in his name across the country. Silencing this discussion normalizes hate and intimidates the victims. […] Instead of rising to responsibility of his office, Trump is hiding behind his Twitter account and sending his staff on TV to threaten his critics.
Again, Conway said she wasn’t suggesting that any legal action was pending, but Team Trump has previously made legal threats, veiled and not, a staple in their rhetoric over the course of campaign, particularly with regards to opponent Hillary Clinton. Trump and his surrogates have repeatedly called Clinton a criminal, usually in reference to her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State, even though an F.B.I. investigation cleared Clinton and her aides of wrongdoing in that case. Trump even made a campaign promise to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton over the email server, and said during a nationally televised debate that if he were president, Clinton would be jailed.
These statements were perceived as Trump essentially promising to imprison his opponent should he be elected president, an unprecedented and undemocratic notion which has been met with widespread outrage. Trump’s supporters, however, typically respond favorably to the idea of Clinton being prosecuted and jailed, and crowds regularly chanted “lock her up” at Trump rallies. Furthermore, following his election, neither Trump nor members of his transition team have refused to rule out prosecuting Clinton once Trump is in the Oval Office, opting for deliberate ambiguity instead. Asked by The Wall Street Journal about his vow to appoint a special prosecutor to target Clinton, Trump avoided answering the question, saying only that, “It’s not something I’ve given a lot of thought, because I want to solve health care, jobs, border control, tax reform.” Members of Trump’s transition team have been equally cagey on the topic, including Kellyanne Conway, so concerns over her comment about Reid on Sunday are not without merit.