Sunday night at the second presidential debate, Donald Trump both revealed his fascist tendencies and his ignorance of how the U.S. works when he threatened that if elected he would order his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Clinton’s emails and later quipped Hillary would go to jail.
Here’s the exchange:
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.
Never mind that Clinton’s emails have already been reviewed by one attorney general.
If Trump overcomes all odds and becomes president, could he actually carry out this threat?
Fortune spoke to several law experts and former attorney generals to find out if Trump could make good on his threat to jail his political opponent. The answer, in short, is no but it’s possible.
Here’s what Lawrence Tribe, a Professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard Law School, had to say about Trump’s threat:
Under the laws and Justice Department regulations governing federal prosecution, a President Trump would not have legal authority to direct the Attorney General to appoint a special prosecutor to ‘look into’ Hillary Clinton’s email situation or the Clinton Foundation or anything else. That’s not within a President’s power.”
Tribe added that carrying out the threat would be an “impeachable offense” by a President Trump.
Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder tweeted Trump’s comment proved he was unfit:
So @realDonaldTrump will ORDER his AG to take certain actions-When Nixon tried that his AG courageously resigned. Trump is dangerous/unfit
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) October 10, 2016
Judge Michael Mukasey, a former U.S. Attorney General 2007-2009, under George W. Bush, says:
No, that’s not within his powers. I think he said, ‘I would direct my attorney general’ to exercise the power to appoint a special counsel. The AG’s proper answer would then be, ‘I’ll think about it.’ Or ‘I’ll review the facts.’ ”
Mukasey said in the event Trump is elected, President Obama could simply just pardon Clinton to shield her from a vengeful Trump Administration.
Dick Thornburgh, a former U.S. Attorney General from 1988-1991 under Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush says:
The attorney general would clearly have the power to proceed. Whether it would be wise or not is another matter.
“There’s very little precedent for a winning candidate for presidency to seek some sort of criminal prosecution as retribution against a recent opponent. I’ve racked my brain.
It’s hard to believe Trump wouldn’t fill his administration with “yes men” so if his AG took Clinton’s case, it’s possible she could still be prosecuted if she isn’t pardoned by President Obama.
Trump showed both his brazen ignorance of how the relationship between a President and Attorney General works, but he also showed he wasn’t afraid to run a Banana Republic.
Here’s some added speculation. It’s important to mention the elephant in the room: Gov. Chris Christie. He immediately sided with Trump during the primary when it was obvious he was not going to win his election. And he hasn’t been sweating out Trump’s dumpster fire of an election simply because he loves Trump. No, Christie has obviously been promised a position in the Trump Administration if he’s elected. Christie would be a contender for the U.S. Attorney General position because he was appointed by President Bush as a US Attorney in New Jersey. And as we saw at the RNC in July, Christie very publicly held a “trial” for Clinton, as the crowd chanted “Lock her up!” Which presents an ethical nightmare if Trump were to appoint Christie, and if he did indeed hire a special prosecutor to look into Clinton’s “situation.”
However, if Trump and whoever he names as AG tried to “Lock her up,” it’s quite possible Trump would be impeached as a result.
Featured Image via YouTube (Screen Capture)