President Trump on Thursday criticized the Justice Department for failing to investigate Hillary Clinton. Trump said that he was “very unhappy” and “frustrated” with a situation that he called beyond his control.
Speaking on Larry O’Connor’s radio show, the president said, “The saddest thing is that because I’m the President of the United States I’m not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department, I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI, I’m not supposed to be doing the kinds of things I would love to be doing and I’m very frustrated by it. I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton with her emails and with the dossier and the kind of money…?”
“It’s very discouraging to me,” the president continued. “I’ll be honest, I’m very unhappy with it that the Justice Department isn’t going—now maybe they are but you know as president, you’re not supposed to be involved in that process but hopefully they are doing something and maybe at some point we can all have it out.”
President Trump seems confused here. The Justice Department is under his authority. Jeff Sessions, the attorney general, is his appointee and works for him. If President Trump really believes that Hillary Clinton is a criminal, he could easily order an investigation to determine whether that is true.
What the president cannot do is interfere with an ongoing investigation. This is why President Trump got into trouble for firing FBI Director James Comey. Comey alleged that Trump pressured him to stopping the investigation of Mike Flynn, which skates perilously close to obstruction of justice.
But stopping an investigation into Flynn is the opposite of starting an investigation into the Clintons. As a candidate, Trump seemed to understand that the president had the power to order an investigation when he promised on the campaign trail to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary. Chants of “lock her up” were encouraged by Trump at his rallies.
In fact, it was President-elect Trump, not the Department of Justice, who decided against an investigation of the Clintons. Two weeks after the election, Trump said, “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t. She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways, and I am not looking to hurt them at all. The campaign was vicious.”
At a post-election rally in December 2016, Trump stopped the crowd from chanting “lock her up.”
“That plays great before the election,” Trump said. “Now we don’t care, right?”
Now that Trump’s approval rating is in the cellar and the Russia investigation is heating up, Trump’s interest in Hillary is renewed. This may be due to the recent revelations about Democrat involvement in the Trump dossier, but it is more likely the president is using Hillary as a distraction and a way of shoring up support for his base. If the president really wanted an investigation of Hillary, there would be one.
While criminalizing political differences is a dangerous road to travel, in the case of the Clintons there seem to be ample grounds for an investigation. Did the Clinton Foundation break the law by selling influence and access to the Secretary of State? Did the Democrats illegally collude with the Russians on the Trump dossier? Did the Obama Administration use the dossier supplied by the Clintons to improperly spy on Americans? Did the Clintons violate laws when they exerted their influence on the Democratic National Committee during the primaries?
Trump’s calls to “lock her up” complicate any investigation of Hillary. As with his tweets calling for the death penalty in the recent New York terror attack, Trump’s words can be considered prejudicial to the outcome of an investigation or trial. If the president thinks Hillary broke the law, he should have Jeff Sessions appoint an independent counsel and then stop tweeting and talking about it.
The case against the Clintons is much stronger now than it was a year ago when Trump was threatening to “lock her up.” As the allegations mount against the Clintons, the need for an independent investigation grows. President Trump has the authority to make an investigation happen. And should.