Trump pushed for prosecution of Clinton, Comey

On multiple occasions, President Donald Trump expressed the desire to order the Department of Justice to prosecute James Comey and Hilary Clinton.

Posted: Nov 22, 2018 12:00 AM
Updated: Nov 22, 2018 12:15 AM

If you weren't taking President Donald Trump literally, you were wrong.

"Lock her up!" and "America First!" are more than just slogans. He's stress-testing the government for ways to punish his rival Hillary Clinton and absolving Saudi Arabia for the way its titular leader dispatched with one of his critics in exchange for their participation in the US arms market.

Freedom to dissent and the peaceful transfer of power between opponents are supposed to be what sets the US apart from undemocratic societies.

But when Trump shot back at Clinton during a 2016 presidential debate that if he were President she'd be in jail, it was a prelude to him actually targeting his former rival and pressuring the Department of Justice to actually "lock her up."

He's tweeted as much since then, complaining that the DOJ wasn't doing enough to investigate her.

But his view on political rivals like Clinton and critics like former FBI Director James Comey, whom he fired, is that the government -- HIS government, he believes -- should be mobilized against them.

His former White House counsel Don McGahn stood in the way, according to The New York Times. But he's also asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Matt Whitaker, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions' chief of staff who has since become acting attorney general, for updates on the investigation.

"We live in a democracy and you don't go after your political rivals," said Alberto Gonzales, who served as both White House counsel and attorney general for Republican President George W. Bush.

But Gonzales added during an interview with CNN's John Berman on "New Day" Wednesday that so far, the people around Trump have kept his power dreams in check. The process, he argued, has worked.

"Sometimes I think this President in particular says things out of frustration but nothing comes of it, and so long as we have good people serving in these senior positions, both in the White House and in the Department of Justice, I have to be confident the rule of law is going to be respected," Gonzales said.

This is the place to point out that that particular counsel is gone and hasn't been replaced. Trump is also in the market for a new attorney general. The man stepping in temporarily is Whitaker, who has been publicly critical of the special counsel investigation that Trump calls a witch hunt. Nowhere has Trump's personal frustrations with the government around him and his desire to influence the Justice Department been more evident than on that government's ability to investigate possible collusion with Russia by his campaign.

While his political grudges have influenced his interactions with justice officials, Trump has ignored the politically inconvenient determinations of his intelligence community.

One of Trump's main slogans since becoming President is "America First!" and that was the subhead of his stream-of-conscious-dictated statement meant to silence debate about how or whether the US should react to Saudi Arabia's official involvement in the death and dismemberment of Virginia resident and Saudi dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

"Maybe they did or maybe they didn't," Trump said in the release, again contradicting his intelligence community. That line seems to be code for the fact that he doesn't care what Saudi Arabia does to its dissidents at long as the government there is buying US-made weapons.

The din in Trump's ear on Saudi Arabia, which the US has long backed as an ally in the Middle East, had grown as evidence grew in the eyes of US intelligence agencies that the operation against Khashoggi had the imprimatur of the kingdom's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Trump, after inking a deal for Saudi Arabia to buy more US weapons doesn't want to hear that, so he affixed eight exclamation points in his statement to drive the point home.

He's also grown tired of the intelligence community's assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election -- the one that gave him his current job -- so he's routinely tried to distract from the inquiry into whether his campaign was complicit in that interference by returning again and again to Clinton, the rival he vanquished and the person Russia tried to keep from winning.

The difference between Saudi Arabia -- a kingdom -- and the United States -- a representative democracy with checks and balances -- is that in Saudi Arabia, a prince can dispatch a team of agents to deal with an inconvenient public critic in a foreign land. They can arrest scads of political rivals and lock them up in the Ritz Carlton during a power grab.

Trump, despite his desires, is hemmed in by the system he leads, which puts us a long way from that kind of naked abuse of power in the US, where the institutions of government do not as easily allow for that moral flexibility.

His absolution of Saudi Arabia of any consequences for the killing of Khashoggi drew reactions from Republicans like Sens. Lindsey Graham and Rand Paul, as well as Sen.-elect Mitt Romney.

"America can't excuse & minimize the brutal & gruesome murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a US resident & columnist. Our country is defined by human values, by principle above convenience, & by commitment to morality. We must subject the perpetrators of this outrage to withering sanction," Romney tweeted after the release of Trump's statement.

Not that such admonitions are likely to influence Trump's thinking. They don't even signal new Republican opposition to the President after the party suffered losses at the ballot box that cost them control of the House and gave Democrats a new foothold in Washington.

Trump has said he sees the election as a victory because Republicans picked up two seats in the Senate. And Republican control of that chamber means he is likely safe, for now, from serious censure or biting legislative counteractions.

It has long been a far different thing for Republicans to criticize Trump as opposed to voting against his policies, which means Trump will likely maintain a protective buffer in the Senate from anything the newly powerful House Democratic majority does to contain him.

The progression of Trump policy from tweet to slogan to action has become more familiar, even though his ideas and tweets seem designed for shock value.

The lasting legacy of the Trump administration will be very dependent on how the government -- whether in the form of the courts, the Congress, the special counsel or the bureaucracy and staff around him -- can contain his attempts to use the government as his own political tool.

The tension between powers is what keeps the US government in balance, but as he does with everything, Trump has supercharged the stress.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 49575

Reported Deaths: 2739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion11812690
Lake5337247
Elkhart343257
Allen2867133
St. Joseph202569
Cass16439
Hamilton1629101
Hendricks1439100
Johnson1306118
Porter78038
Tippecanoe7439
Clark67144
Madison66864
Vanderburgh6296
LaPorte59727
Bartholomew59245
Howard58258
Kosciusko5654
Marshall5217
Noble49128
LaGrange4829
Jackson4773
Delaware46052
Boone45944
Hancock45736
Shelby43425
Floyd39144
Morgan32831
Monroe31528
Grant30226
Montgomery29720
Henry29316
Dubois2906
Clinton2882
White26810
Decatur25532
Lawrence25125
Dearborn24723
Vigo2408
Warrick23229
Harrison21722
Greene19132
Miami1892
Jennings17912
Putnam1708
DeKalb1634
Scott1628
Daviess15017
Wayne1496
Perry1409
Orange13623
Steuben1332
Franklin1278
Jasper1252
Ripley1247
Wabash1152
Carroll1122
Fayette1037
Gibson1032
Newton9910
Whitley995
Starke963
Huntington822
Randolph804
Wells791
Jefferson782
Fulton731
Jay680
Washington671
Pulaski661
Knox650
Clay644
Rush603
Owen511
Adams491
Posey490
Benton480
Spencer461
Sullivan451
Brown421
Blackford392
Fountain332
Crawford320
Tipton311
Switzerland280
Parke240
Martin220
Ohio210
Vermillion170
Warren151
Union130
Pike110
Unassigned0193

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 61331

Reported Deaths: 3006
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin11122439
Cuyahoga8518383
Hamilton6396206
Lucas2859304
Marion273739
Montgomery228335
Summit2269209
Pickaway220641
Mahoning1885239
Butler172147
Columbiana132460
Stark1171114
Lorain107368
Trumbull101474
Warren91825
Clark78410
Delaware64515
Fairfield61417
Tuscarawas59010
Belmont55822
Lake55122
Medina54832
Licking53612
Miami48631
Portage47759
Wood46151
Ashtabula43844
Clermont4367
Geauga41543
Wayne36752
Richland3595
Allen33841
Greene3009
Mercer29410
Erie26022
Darke25326
Holmes2524
Huron2342
Madison2069
Ottawa16124
Sandusky14215
Washington14220
Crawford1375
Ross1363
Putnam13315
Coshocton1323
Hardin12312
Morrow1201
Auglaize1094
Jefferson952
Muskingum921
Union921
Athens911
Monroe8917
Hancock841
Preble811
Hocking798
Lawrence790
Guernsey763
Shelby724
Williams722
Clinton700
Logan661
Fulton650
Ashland621
Wyandot615
Carroll603
Brown591
Scioto560
Defiance543
Knox531
Fayette510
Highland471
Champaign461
Van Wert430
Perry401
Seneca362
Henry320
Jackson270
Paulding270
Pike270
Adams241
Vinton222
Gallia201
Noble130
Harrison121
Meigs120
Morgan110
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Angola
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Huntington
Overcast
78° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Van Wert
Broken Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 84° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 81°
Breezy, Sunny Saturday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events