I’m glad we all agree that it’s inappropriate for the president to pressure the DOJ politically and that it should be free to pursue criminal investigations wherever the evidence might lead. Gonna bookmark this post for future reference on that point, just in case.

Ed and Jazz have already written posts speculating about what Trump might be up to in nudging the FBI to stand down on its Clinton investigations. I don’t understand it myself. It’s a basic gesture of magnanimity to a defeated foe, sure, but what specifically does that gesture entail? Is he going to pardon Hillary? Is he hoping that the FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation will take a hint and flush any evidence incriminating her down the toilet? Either option would be awkward after he spent six months ginning up anger at Crooked Hillary. If he wants to get this off his plate politically and avoid blame from Coulter-types who demand to see Hillary in jail, it’d be better to have Obama pardon her — but if that’s Trump’s game, the last thing he should be doing now is implying that Clinton won’t be prosecuted next year. That might lead Obama to believe that no pardon is necessary. If anything, Trump should refuse to rule out a special prosecutor into her crimes, which might force Obama’s hand. And while I like the “head fake” theory — Trump is merely pretending he won’t prosecute Hillary so that Obama doesn’t pardon her first — it doesn’t jibe with Kellyanne Conway’s conciliatory tone in talking about this. “If Donald Trump can help her heal, then perhaps that’s a good thing,” said Conway of Clinton this morning. He’s going to help her “heal,” then try to put her in jail next year? Come on.

Also surprising: Trump is a master of using shiny objects to distract the media, to the point where some critics this weekend wondered if Mike Pence’s visit to “Hamilton” had been arranged in the hope that he’d be booed. Why? Because Trump’s $25 million settlement in the Trump University case had been finalized the same day and Team Trump needed a splashy culture-war flashpoint a la “Hamilton” to draw attention away from that. I think that theory’s nutty, but it goes to show you how conscious people are of Trump’s gambits to manipulate the press. That being so, there are few things that would distract attention next year from his conflicts of interest and inevitable newbie missteps on the job like a federal investigation and prosecution of Hillary Clinton. Why throw that potential shiny object away now? It may be, though, that Trump has high hopes for his first year, starting with his Supreme Court appointment and the ObamaCare overhaul, and he doesn’t want the possibility of a Hillary prosecution to be a shiny object that distracts from that. If he’s expecting to do big popular things that will boost his national support, it makes sense that he’d want to put the Clinton stuff to bed and deny Democrats an obvious rallying point in opposition. Do you want Chuck Schumer whipping Democratic votes for you on an infrastructure bill or do you want him giving press conferences about “banana republic” criminal vendettas by the president against his political opponents?

Here’s a half-assed theory. Maybe Trump intends to prosecute Hillary but wants to seen as doing it reluctantly, because of a tremendous populist outcry that forces his hand. That might explain the surprising criticism from Coulter and the even more surprising headline at Breitbart this morning:

You wouldn’t expect a website run by Trump’s top strategist to be crowing about “broken promises,” especially on a subject like prosecuting Hillary Clinton. That makes me wonder if maybe Steve Bannon disagrees with the decision to let Clinton skate and is making his unhappiness known via Breitbart. Ben Shapiro, who’s been a sharp critic of Breitbart since leaving the site, suspects it’s more a case of pro-Trump media seizing an opportunity to create a veneer of objectivity, i.e. criticizing Trump occasionally in minor ways so that they can’t be accused of being a house organ for Trump and Bannon when they end up spending most of their time pushing Trump’s agenda. This isn’t such a minor matter, though; and even if they were simply checking a box to look objective, they could have done it without a flashy headline about broken promises. Either parts of Trump’s base like Coulter and Breitbart are legitimately annoyed that he’s backing off of Hillary or, as I say, maybe Trump’s using them as a trial balloon, to see whether his populist fans will accept letting Clinton slide. If there isn’t too much grumbling despite the pushback, great — then he knows he won’t pay a price politically for doing the magnanimous thing and putting the Clinton matter behind him and the GOP. If there is an outcry, okay — he can reverse field and say that he’ll go forward with an investigation because the people, who are tired of seeing the elites escape responsibility for their actions, demand it. I’m not sure how that’ll play if/when polls emerge showing that most of the public supports letting Clinton off the hook (virtually all Democrats plus some Republicans will say so), but that’s the best I can do to explain what Trump might have in mind in all of this.

Here’s his latest pronouncement on the subject, from today’s interview with the New York Times. He’s not ruling out a prosecution, but he’s reluctant:

“I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t,” Mr. Trump said. “She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.”

Pressed on whether he had definitively ruled out a prosecution of Mrs. Clinton, he said, “It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about.”

Via Grabien, enjoy a trip down memory lane, when “healing” Crooked Hillary was the furthest thing from Trump’s mind.