Is this not-personally-interested, or don’t-pursue-this uninterested? Jazz wrote about the leak from Team Trump earlier, but it’s worth watching Kellyanne Conway deliver the message in person on Morning Joe. Conway makes this official and definitely leaves the impression that it’s not just a statement of laissez-faire from Donald Trump on Hillary Clinton. Not only does he want to drop the matter of the e-mail scandal and the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play allegations, he wants Republicans in Congress to drop them, too. Conway cites Trump’s status as head of the party as the imprimatur necessary for his wishes to be followed:
— Bradd Jaffy (@BraddJaffy) November 22, 2016
“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 other Republicans, former Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway said Tuesday.
“If Donald Trump can help her heal, then perhaps that’s a good thing to do,” Conway added, saying Clinton “still has to face the fact that a majority of Americans don’t find her to be honest or trustworthy.”
“I think he’s thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign are not among them.”
Jazz playfully suggested earlier that this might be a head fake to keep Barack Obama from pardoning Hillary and her aides. This sounds more like a stand-down order from on high … and it will be interesting to see how it plays out.
For one thing, the president’s authority doesn’t extend to Congress. Republicans there don’t need Trump’s permission to continue their investigations, at least not constitutionally. Politically, it matters more, but perhaps not so much with Trump. Under normal conditions, a man who just won the presidency would fulfill Conway’s description as political chief of the party, except that’s not how Trump ran his campaign, and it’s not how voters saw him. A stand-down order from Ronald Reagan or the two President Bushes might have carried some political weight in Congress in their times, but Trump ran as an outsider rather than a party leader in the way Reagan and the Bushes did.
Besides, nothing will come of the Congressional probes at this point, except to publish more evidence that a thorough investigation would have already found. That’s the purview of the FBI and Department of Justice — and that’s where Trump’s “order” will run into bigger problems. According to a number of reports, the FBI already has an open investigation into the Clinton Foundation questions, and a president cannot just order the FBI to stop an investigation without running the risk of obstructing justice. That’s why the DoJ never quite told Andrew McCabe to shut it down, and backed off when the FBI’s #2 asked this question: “Are you telling me that I need to shut down a validly predicated investigation?”
Don’t forget that Trump appointed Jeff Sessions to run the DoJ as Attorney General, too. Sessions has publicly slammed the DoJ and the FBI for its lack of vigor on both of these investigations over the past year, and he sees his role as righting the ship after the rampant politicization of the Obama era. That cuts both ways, but it seems difficult to believe that Sessions will buy that dropping validly predicated investigations into corrupt officials amounts to a de-politicization of Justice. Sessions is more likely to be a crusader for the rule of law than a let-bygones-be-bygones guy when it comes to potential corruption.
Maybe this is a head fake, or maybe it’s a way to put as much distance between Trump and whatever Sessions does or doesn’t do as possible. The least likely outcome is that these probes get dropped, unless Obama pardons Hillary and her aides on his way out the door. The only safe way for a president to intervene in a political-corruption probe is through a pardon, and until Obama or Trump start issuing them, this doesn’t really mean much.