Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie demurred Thursday when asked about the President-elect’s resolve to follow-up on his campaign promise to put Hillary Clinton in jail. More than once, Donald Trump suggested that Hillary should be prosecuted for Clinton Foundation operations and her exposure of classified information through a secret and unauthorized e-mail system. Supporters at his rallies often chanted “Lock her up!” as Trump hammered on her connections to corruption and influence-peddling.
Neither former federal prosecutor — both rumored to be on short lists in the upcoming administration — sounded all that enthusiastic about being part of that project. Giuliani did allow that a pass would make other prosecutions harder to sustain, but also suggested that Trump might let bygones be bygones. However, Giuliani also did suggest that Trump might ask for FBI Director James Comey’s resignation:
It’s worth noting, as Chris Cuomo does here, that the director of the FBI isn’t supposed to be a political appointment. Presidents do make the appointment, but the term is set for ten years, both to limit any one person’s access to that power and to keep politics at arms’ length from the nominee. Republicans hailed Comey’s selection at the time, so a GOP president demanding a resignation would raise eyebrows on a number of fronts. It sounds as though Giuliani plans to make the case for keeping Comey to Trump, and as he notes here anyway, the real issue was with the Department of Justice. Giuliani doesn’t sound enthusiastic about fixing that problem in regard to Hillary, but he’s not entirely ruling it out.
Chris Christie sounded downright dismissive when discussing the prospects for a Hillary prosecution with Today‘s Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie. He even used that most Clintonian of all scandal slogans — move on:
“I haven’t spoken to (Trump) about that. I will tell you they had an enormously gracious conversation with each other Tuesday night,” he said. “Again, politics are over now, people have spoken, time to move on.”
“People wanted (Clinton) to be locked up. Those are his constituents,” host Matt Lauer replied.
“Listen, but the people get to speak through their vote and they voted for Donald Trump to be president of the United States. It is now his job — and I am confident he will — to bring the country together,” Christie said.
If the incoming Trump administration wants to tackle a Hillary Clinton prosecution, don’t expect either of these two candidates for AG to quarterback it. The most politically safe move would be to appoint a special counsel rather than route it through the Department of Justice anyway, which would allow Trump to keep his hands off any final decision. (Perhaps Barack Obama should have considered that after Loretta Lynch’s tête-a-tête with Bill Clinton as Comey was wrapping up his conclusions.)
A bigger question will be whether it’s worth it at all. The Clintons are finished in politics, especially Hillary, who booted a winnable election in the most spectacular fashion in recent memory. Maybe Thomas Dewey’s stunning 1948 loss comes close. Their foundation isn’t going to have anywhere near its former cachet, since it’s clear that the Clintons will have no influence to peddle. Hillary might write a third memoir, but she won’t get anywhere near the $14 million advance she got on her last book, which sold miserably for that level of investment and raised a lot of questions about the publisher’s motives. They’ll live high on the hog, but stained forever by their own actions.
The only real value in pursuing Hillary is pour encourager les autres — to set an example to others about peddling influence and treating classified intelligence in such a shockingly negligent manner. That’s precisely why the DoJ does prosecute those cases when involving people not named Clinton. As a recommitment to the rule of law, it would matter in this case — and at least an independent counsel investigation would help settle those questions.