After threatening for months on the campaign trail in 2016 that America would see Hillary Clinton locked up if he won the presidency, Donald Trump seems to have made an attempt to do just that earlier this year, along with former FBI Director James Comey.
According to the New York Times, Trump told the White House counsel that he wanted to order the Justice Department to press charges against Clinton and Comey back in the spring already.
Lawyer Donald F. McGahn II, who was part of the conversation, pointed out to Trump that he “had no authority to order a prosecution” of his own political adversaries. McGahn told the president he could potentially order an investigation, but added that many would consider it to be an abuse of power to do so.
McGahn further emphasized his point by insisting White House lawyers write a memo to the president “warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.” The conversation seems to confirm Trump’s blatant attempt to use the usually independent Justice Department as a tool to rid him of political rivals.
The concern over Trump’s abuse of power was only heightened when McGahn left the White House recently, and by his appointment of Matthew G. Whitaker, a “relatively inexperienced political loyalist,” as the acting attorney general.
Dictators prosecute their political opponents.
A country that tolerates this wants to be a dictatorship.
This is an impeachable offense.
He needs to go. Now.
New York Times: Trump wanted Clinton, Comey prosecuted – CNNPolitics https://t.co/oKL262bMVB
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) November 20, 2018
Whether or not Trump read McGahn’s several-pages-long memo outlining his authority before tossing it in the trash is unclear, but he has certainly continued to discuss the possibility of prosecuting Clinton and Comey. He has also toyed with appointing another special counsel to investigate both of them, according to two unnamed sources supposedly familiar with the president’s plans.
It is not clear what Trump wants either Clinton or Comey prosecuted for, although it is known that Trump has — without evidence — accused Comey of handing over classified information to media outlets, and has wanted to investigate Comey’s role in the investigation into Clinton’s emails. Law enforcement declined to investigate either claim, and it was determined that no information in the documents shared with the media was classified.
Trump has also previously expressed his frustration with FBI Director Christopher Wray, calling him weak for “failing to more aggressively investigate” Clinton’s emails, something the president has repeatedly complained about despite his daughter doing the exact same thing since he was sworn into office.