Profoundly stupid tactically, and profoundly hypocritical politically. Just three years after Democrats ran around shrieking over the “Lock her up” chants at Donald Trump rallies, Kamala Harris has decided to set her agenda on prosecuting the current president. She tells NPR that a Department of Justice in a Harris administration would indict and try Trump based on the obstruction counts in Robert Mueller’s report:
“There has to be accountability,” Harris added. “I mean look, people might, you know, question why I became a prosecutor. Well, I’ll tell you one of the reasons — I believe there should be accountability. Everyone should be held accountable, and the president is not above the law.”
The former San Francisco district attorney and California attorney general said she wasn’t dissuaded by the prospect of a former American president facing trial and a potential prison sentence. “The facts and the evidence will take the process where it leads,” she said.
“I do believe that we should believe Bob Mueller when he tells us essentially that the only reason an indictment was not returned is because of a memo in the Department of Justice that suggests you cannot indict a sitting president. But I’ve seen prosecution of cases on much less evidence.”
Let’s note up front that hypocrisy extends in both directions. Trump made the same dumb campaign pledge with Clinton, too. How did that work out? Trump won, but not because he was going to prosecute Hillary; he won because Hillary never showed up in Wisconsin and barely paid attention to Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump ended up backing off his “lock her up” promise immediately after winning, but still does little to discourage that chant at rallies, when it occurs at all any more. Anyone feigning shock, shock at this breakdown of American norms from Harris’ pledge had better first note the obvious precedent.
That said, it’s still hypocritical for Harris to now adopt the “lock him up” pledge. Had Barack Obama’s DoJ done its job, it had plenty of evidence to prosecute Hillary under 18 USC 793 for her use of a private e-mail system in transmitting classified information. There is at least as much evidence for obstruction with Clinton too as there is for Trump, with her destruction of records, namely the e-mails, and destruction of electronic devices in covering up those records. Don’t forget that the entire purpose of that system was to obstruct Congress and the courts from exercising legitimate oversight over her actions at the State Department, which she allowed to repeatedly misrepresent her e-mail status in FOIA court actions.
The statute of limitations on obstruction charges for Clinton’s e-mail system actions doesn’t run out until next year at the earliest, in fact. Would Harris cheer an effort by William Barr to indict Clinton and her team now? Especially as a demonstration of “equal justice under the law”? I’d say that’s doubtful in the extreme, which underscores the hypocrisy at play.
Tactically, this is even worse. Trump might have trouble firing up his base in 2020; he certainly did in 2018, when a Democratic voter surge overwhelmed his populist midterm campaigning. If this becomes a referendum on indicting Trump, however, that same base will come thundering back to the ballot boxes, and the rest of voters will wonder why Harris wants to focus on 2016 rather than 2021.
It sounds more like Harris wants to be Attorney General than president. Right now, it doesn’t appear she has much chance of being either.