Hillary Clinton has broken the law. FBI Director Comey admitted as much when he announced he would not recommend pressing charges against her for mishandling classified information on her records regulation-skirting private email server. I think she should have been charged and faced justice, and so do a majority of Americans.
But there’s a difference between facing justice and political prisoners. We don’t convict defendants based on a majority vote…yet.
In the second presidential debate, Donald Trump said that if he were president that Clinton would be in jail. Shortly before that he said he would direct his attorney general to use a special prosecutor to investigate her. Which is it? Would he investigate her, or would he convict her? The difference is crucial.
He might say that under a different attorney general or FBI director of his choosing, charges would have been recommended and Clinton indicted. That still doesn’t guarantee a conviction or jail time, which he did before a television audience of tens of millions of voters, even if flippantly.
As many problems as our criminal justice system has, mercifully political prisonership is not commonly among them. That is more commonly a feature of banana republics and despotism.
— John Aravosis (@aravosis) October 10, 2016
When people criticize Trump for sounding like a dictator, this is what they mean. Our republic cannot survive if we succumb to this kind of rhetoric, especially if we base our votes on it.
A couple months ago, shortly after Comey’s announcement, I bought a “Hillary for Prison” tshirt. I’ve been stopped and applauded for it many times while wearing it in public. I think Clinton deserves a criminal conviction for her flagrant dismissal of federal regulations and disregard for national security.
But I don’t want that conviction guaranteed by a politician. I want it decided by a jury of her peers after a speedy and public trial following an indictment by an impartial grand jury. Trumpism promises the former at the cost of the latter (as do similar campaigns seeking convictions of bankers, oil companies, or whistleblowers), and by doing so Trump himself shows as much disregard for the Constitution as Clinton does for the truth.
If you still think Trump is doing the right thing here, consider how loudly you opposed the Obama administration’s use of the IRS to target conservative nonprofit groups for audit and denial of tax-exempt status. Expanding that vindictive use of the bureaucracy to the criminal justice system is much, much worse. Is it really a neutral enforcer of the law you want in a president, as designed by the Constitution, or just another bully-in-chief for your own team instead of the other side?