Trump backtracks on ‘lock her up’

I think that most people realised that a lot of the US campaign rhetoric was bull. They simply didn’t care.

“I think one thing that should be distinguished here is that the media is always taking Trump literally. It never takes him seriously, but it always takes him literally. … I think a lot of voters who vote for Trump take Trump seriously but not literally”

– Peter Thiel

Donald Trump threatened to put a prosecutor onto Hillary Clinton’s case and put her in prison in a presidential debate..And he played his supporters, encouraging them to chant ‘lock her up’ at his rallies.

But it now appears that that was not a serious nor a literal threat.

NBC News: Trump Team Signals He Won’t Pursue Clinton Investigations

Donald Trump will not push for investigations into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server or for the business practices of the Clinton Foundation, a Trump senior adviser signaled Tuesday.

A source with knowledge of the decision told MSNBC’s Morning Joe that president-elect Trump won’t pursue the probe that he promised supporters during the campaign, a move that Trump senior adviser Kellyanne Conway appeared to confirm during an interview on Tuesday morning.

“I think when the president-elect … tells you before he’s even inaugurated he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone and content, to the members [of Congress],” Conway said. “And I think Hillary Clinton still has to face the fact that a majority of Americans don’t find her to be honest or trustworthy, but if Donald Trump can help her heal, then perhaps that’s a good thing.”

Trump himself hinted that he was prepared to walk back the pledge during his first post-election interview earlier this month.

“They’re, they’re good people,” he said of the Clintons during an interview on “60 Minutes.” “I don’t want to hurt them.”

Will anyone care? It may annoy some people.

For the rest of Trump supporters it may depend on how many of his claims, assertions and promises turn out to have been non-literal and non-serious.


Believed Trump would actually ask a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton:

  • 39% of Americans
  • 62% of Trump voters
  • 25% of Clinton voters


What if Trump wins and Clinton is locked up?

“Lock her up” has been a common chant at Donald Trump rallies for some time, prompted and encouraged by Trump.

This was still happening, at a rally in Pennsylvania on Monday:

This follows Trump’s controversial comments during Sunday’s debate:

Trump: “If I win I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation. People have been, their lives have been destroyed for doing one fifth of what you have done. And it’s a disgrace.”

Clinton: You know, it’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.”

Trump: “Because you would be in jail.”

From The Atlantic: Trump’s Promise to Jail Clinton Is a Threat to American Democracy

This is not how special prosecutors work. There are a number of legal mechanisms for the appointment of special counsel by the attorney general, all designed to allow for investigations of executive-branch officials free from the threat of political interference. Trump proposed the opposite: directing his attorney general to appoint a prosecutor to go after a political rival who he’s publicly said should “be in jail.”

This is not how the presidency works. When Richard Nixon tried to interfere in an ongoing investigation, Attorney General Elliott Richardson resigned. And even if Trump could find a more malleable attorney general, and discard precedent, he’d still lack the power to jail Clinton unilaterally. Presidents are not in charge of the law, but of its faithful execution.

The President should not and can not instruct the Attorney General on what to investigate. It would be particularly bad for the President to instruct the AG to investigate a political opponent.

This is also not how democracies work. Elected officials do not jail their foes. The Constitution specifically prohibits bills of attainder—legislation designed to punish individuals, thereby circumventing the judicial process—to bar despotic rulers from persecuting their opponents. The jailing of political opponents is a feature of repressive dictatorships, not vibrant democracies.


But it is fully in keeping with how Trump’s campaign has worked. He accepted the nomination in Cleveland in July. The defining chant of that convention was not, “Make America Great Again.” It was “Lock Her Up!”

And on Sunday, that’s exactly what Trump vowed to do.

So what if Trump becomes President? If he tried to instruct the Attorney General it would get a huge amount of attention, and condemnation. It would pit the President against the legal branch and whatever resulted it would cause major problems.

What if the Attorney general independently chose to investigate Clinton? That would raise many questions and accusations of underhand pressure.

What if Clinton was found guilty and imprisoned?

US politics and the US judiciary would be ridiculed world wide.

By the look of current polling all this seems unlikely, they farce he has helped make out of the campaign is catching up with him as he burns more and more bridges to a majority.

It may well do the opposite to what Trump is promoting, and give Clinton a get out of jail free card.

If she becomes President the Attorney General (and the Republicans) may be reluctant to allow a perception they are doing what Trump wants.