“Prison for Hillary”

Posted in: Politics

Trump supporters started selling T-shirts with “Prison for Hillary” and chanting “Lock her up” at rallies well before the GOP convention. But the nationally televised convention in July provided a worldwide audience to criminally attack Mrs. Clinton.

Frankly, I was surprised the attack was led by former U.S. Attorney and current Republican Governor of New Jersey Chris Christie, who is in Donald Trump’s inner circle. He has the candidate’s ear. At the GOP Convention, Christie used his spotlight address to criminally indict the Democratic nominee, speaking as a “former federal prosecutor” and asking the crowd at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena after each of his charges, whether she was “guilty or not guilty?”

In lynch-mob fashion, the crowd shouted “guilty” to everything: The rise of ISIS, the use of a private email server when she was Secretary of State, even the turbulence in the Middle East. GUILTY. GUILTY. GUILTY. Christie charged Hillary was the “chief engineer of the disastrous overthrow of Qaddafi in Libya;” she “amazingly fought for two years to keep an Al Qaeda affiliate off the terrorist watch list,” which resulted in the kidnapping of hundreds of young girls by Boko Haram: GUILTY, LOCK HER UP. Christie claimed she was responsible for the deaths of the 400,000 people killed in Syria’s civil war. GUILTY. It went on and on. A New York Times fact-check shows that Christie twisted, distorted, and out-right lied about his facts. No one bothered to mention that this former federal prosecutor did not cite a single criminal law she had violated, for there was none. This was pure demagoguery of the ugliest kind.

And it has not stopped. Apparently Christie has advised the Trump campaign to continue calling for criminalizing Hillary’s conduct, charging her for anything and everything, for it has continued. All generalities—for when they get specific, the charges fall apart. For example, in a prior column I set out the bogus case of perjury GOP lawmakers concocted trying to get Hillary indicted.

Most recently, and more strikingly, is the escalating of these bogus charges by Donald Trump, the candidate himself. While pointing his finger at Mrs. Clinton during the second presidential debate, the following exchange occurred:

TRUMP: I’ll tell you what. I didn’t think I’d say this, and I’m going to say it, and hate to say it: If I win, I’m going to instruct the attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there’s never been so many lies, so much deception … A very expensive process, so we’re going to get a special prosecutor because people have been, their lives have been destroyed for doing one-fifth of what you’ve done. And it’s a disgrace, and honestly, you ought to be ashamed.

CLINTON: Let me just talk about emails, because everything he just said is absolutely false. But I’m not surprised … It’s just awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law of our country.

TRUMP: Because you’d be in jail.

Trump’s campaign manager and spokeswoman, Kellyanne Conway, claims it is just a “quip.” This is hardly an explanation when Trump keeps repeating it with increasing fervor, at rally after rally. He now calls Bill and Hillary Clinton a criminal enterprise. He calls for her prosecution as part of his stump speeches.

What Is to Be Made of Such Appalling Behavior?

Donald Trump is not an attorney. But the attorneys surrounding him are certainly not giving him good advice, particularly Chris Christie as a former U.S. Attorney. Trump & Company have broken new ground in modern presidential campaigning by declaring that as president he will send his opponent to prison. This, of course, has thrilled Trump’s base of supporters. In a campaign with too many appalling events to catalog, this new effort to criminalize an opponent is about as troubling as they come. Jailing a political opponent is the tactic of dictators; it is the way campaigns are run in third-world countries that pretend to be democratic. This is the stuff of banana republics, not mature democracies.

As every prosecutor knows, and more people should understand, with time and money, sooner or later most anyone can be charged, if not convicted, with criminal conduct. As a former U.S. Attorney surely Chris Christie must be aware of the warnings given by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson, when serving as attorney general of the United States. Jackson delivered what has become a classic speech to a conference of U.S. Attorneys about the powers of federal prosecutors. Everything Jackson said in 1940 remains applicable today.

It was a relatively brief and to the point talk (about 1600 words) that I would encourage everyone read. But allow me to draw attention to a couple of passages because they relate to the untoward new theme of the Trump campaign:

The prosecutor has more control over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America. His discretion is tremendous. He can have citizens investigated and, if he is that kind of person, he can have this done to the tune of public statements and veiled or unveiled intimations. Or the prosecutor may choose a more subtle course and simply have a citizen’s friends interviewed. The prosecutor can order arrests, present cases to the grand jury in secret session, and on the basis of his one-sided presentation of the facts, can cause the citizen to be indicted and held for trial. He may dismiss the case before trial, in which case the defense never has a chance to be heard. Or he may go on with a public trial. If he obtains a conviction, the prosecutor can still make recommendations as to sentence, as to whether the prisoner should get probation or a suspended sentence, and after he is put away, as to whether he is a fit subject for parole. While the prosecutor at his best is one of the most beneficent forces in our society, when he acts from malice or other base motives, he is one of the worst. [Emphasis added.]

* * *

If the prosecutor is obliged to choose his cases, it follows that he can choose his defendants. Therein is the most dangerous power of the prosecutor: that he will pick people that he thinks he should get, rather than pick cases that need to be prosecuted. With the law books filled with a great assortment of crimes, a prosecutor stands a fair chance of finding at least a technical violation of some act on the part of almost anyone. In such a case, it is not a question of discovering the commission of a crime and then looking for the man who has committed it, it is a question of picking the man and then searching the law books, or putting investigators to work, to pin some offense on him. It is in this realm – in which the prosecutor picks some person whom he dislikes or desires to embarrass, or selects some group of unpopular persons and then looks for an offense, that the greatest danger of abuse of prosecuting power lies.

Former Attorney General Jackson goes on to explain the kind of prosecution that Donald Trump is calling for is exactly what federal prosecutors should not be doing, so it is horrifying that former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie gave his show trial speech at the convention and is apparently encouraging his candidate to call for such abhorrent conduct. (Demagogues like Trump do not have the sense to know better than to reject such approaches.) Ironically, as I write this Governor Christie now finds himself under criminal investigation, with a judge authorizing a criminal summons into his role in “Bridgegate.” Christie must surely hope that the prosecutor investigating his conduct is not following the tactics he and Trump are calling for in going after Hillary.

  • I was listening to the debate live, and when Trump threatened his opponent with jail, I thought “This is over!” That is completely beyond the pale. That sort of threat MUST be a criminal offense, especially when you are running for the most powerful political office in the country. That’s GOT to fit into the “high crimes and misdemeanors” that would qualify for impeachment even before the election!

    Then again, it’s not like it matters to Trump’s devout supporters. Their powers of devotion are phenomenal. For example, they can believe that Trump should be forgiven for old offenses, but the Clinton’s cannot be forgiven for much older accusations. Actually, I think that some of the religious devotees are actually praying for Trump to die on January 22nd, win or lose.

    Just joking, but I think this entire campaign has become a sick joke. My favorite is about the 5P-word promises:

    1: Prison for his enemies and RINOs (Beautiful new Gitmo City?)
    2: Pardons for his friends (Worried business associates?)
    3: Profits for the wealthy (Of course including himself.)
    4: Punt his taxes (Mexico will pay for everything?)
    5. Private parts for grabbing!

    Or maybe the biggest mystery is how or why they hate Hillary so much? She isn’t a witch or demon.

    Time for another joke? If you think Trump is scraping the bottom of the barrel, you’re gonna need a bigger barrel!

  • Brett

    Mr. Dean needs to read 18 U.S.C. Section 793(f). Any discussion of it is conspicuously absent from this piece. Surely Mr. Dean is aware of it, if not his editorial ability speaks for itself.

  • Ted Harvatin

    One name John: Scooter Libby

  • slybyrd

    No, Mr. Dean…………….jailing is done in civilized societies when someone BREAKS THE LAW!! Operating outside the confines of the law and not being held accountable, (or being ABOVE THE LAW), is what happens in the realm(s) of dictators.

    What former president were you counsel to??? Fidel Castro.

    That brown ring around your neck is going to be hard to wash off…………….shill.

  • G.N.M.

    Yeah, we shouldn’t jail crooks, should we?

  • romney2011

    This is a wise, just and fair viewpoint. Now, for Hillary, is the fact that she IS guilty of all of the charges. She and Obama and the federal government. This government is pure treason, murder, is anti-American, anti-Constitution. It is run to promote an agenda bent on the complete and utter destruction of our nation; one our founders gave it all for. I mean all. Blood, safety of self and family, fortune, life. America as intended is bleeding and it MUST have honest, moral, Christian, citizens to turn it around. The Clinton’s and the Obama administration is a puppet for the slow but eventual elimination of all our founders and we who believe in our Constitution believe in. I do not intend to have our Constitution used against me and our once great nation. Our enemies deserve no consideration, or even protection from the Constitution. It is time to suspend it in order to plant a basis for returning it to where it belongs. Mr. Dean, do you intend to sit and provide defense for our enemies? It is a dilemma, but consideration even with our Constitution, must be given for an even greater cause. Survival! And survival of our nation, culture, freedom, and perpetuation of our way of life. Then re-install a near perfect document; our Constitution. The Constitution does not any longer protect us. WE MUST PROTECT IT. Put it away to protect it. Fight for it. Protect it. Return it so it can do as intended. I do not want to give my life or nation away to those who would destroy it and us. Mr. Dean, you are a damn fool and traitor. You have never been a patriotic, Constitutional conservative. The current puppet pseudo-President has broken the laws of our Constitution hundreds of times as did the Clinton’s and Hillary will do it again. This is for survival, life, freedom and now a time for war with no conditions except take no prisoners.
    Mr. Dean, I just scrolled down and saw more of your comments. My God, you must be a damn communist, statist, and apparently hate this nation. You clearly fit very smoothly into the shoe of the RINO/establishment of the Bush family. Old H. W. was one of the first to go public with the words “new world order.” You are right in there aren’t you……you fucking traitor. May God himself punish you like pure hell.

    • And there you have in a nutshell the proof positive of what sort of hateful, angry lunatic supports Donald Trump. Thanks, but we’ve already seen enough proof.

  • Email deletion is a CRIME!

    That’s the extension of Trump’s “thinking”. Whenever you delete email for ANY reason you are obstructing the investigation of why someone else deleted email!

    The way this works, Trump’s special prosecutors will go after ANYONE who has ever deleted ANY email for ANY reason. Trump’s enemies will go to prison and his friends (and business associates) will receive presidential pardons! No problemo!

    We really have fallen through the rabbit hole here. When you hear reports of his the rallies of his supporters, it seems like Hate has become one of America’s great religions. You get sucked into paranoid plots, like Dan-Rathering the sexual assault “issue” by recruiting women who are smart enough to fool the reporters while being stupid enough to get crucified for (provably) false accusations.

    My conclusion is that the Constitution really needs a massive rewrite. This winner-take-all thing needs to be softened to coalition government. With winner-take-all elections, you can only have two parties or one, because every issue tends to get reduced to a scale. Even worse, the parties cannot sustain ideologies because the elections force them to pitch to the largest number of voters in the middle of the Bell curve.

    America, we have a problem!

  • g kelly

    DJT has been running for president for more than a year. As far as anyone can tell, he has concetrated on stirring up prejudice, and studiously avoided learning anything about how elections are conducted in this country. Given his long history of bad conduct and willful ignorance, no one should be surprised by these recent statements, no matter how foreign they may be to American political practice and tradition.

  • Given that our present administration seems to be working outside of the Law of the Land in many areas unless the US constitution is already deemed to be non existential you and others. I also think that Mr Trump is a citizen at this time not a president unless I missed something the news forgot to report. They do seem to be good at that I have to admit. If when you run for public office you lose the right of free speech then I would assume that all attorneys as officers of the court should be bound the same. Not to good for your writing.

  • Frank Willa

    Mr. Dean, thank you for your analysis. In my view the call for prosecution by Trump based on his review of news media accounts, not the work of systematic prosecutor inquiry is stunning. Further, that Gov. Christie would conduct himself in this fashion is inexplicable; how can an attorney, a former prosecutor, lead such a mob mentality? I appreciate your point the Justice Roberts has put forth a thoughtful perspective on the mis-use of power as a caution and warning as how the misapplied power would subvert justice and undermine the democratic faith in the notion of the rule of law. This was one of the Constitution’s great advancements; removing the “rule of men” from our nation. My take on this behavior by these two is just what is to be expected, as you have articulated, from authoritarian personality types. The vitriol, the anger, the contempt. and the devaluing of someone that does not yield to them is predictable. That this is done in the context of little to no actual facts, reflecting little thoughtful judgement, and no restraint on this furious expression is not surprising. The FBI did review the emails, in the professional manner required of attorneys and found no basis to proceed to prosecution. I hope that this campaign marks the end of the current authoritarian/conservation era