During the second presidential debate, Donald Trump told Hillary Clinton in no uncertain terms that he’d specifically instruct a special prosecutor to investigate her. Here’s the clip:
His words were clear: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.” In another clip, he interrupted Clinton to tell her that she’d “be in jail” if he was in charge of law enforcement:
Today, however, it appears that Trump has changed his mind, declaring through Kellyanne Conway that he’s not going to seek charges against Hillary. This is the right decision to make — with an important caveat.
The president simply shouldn’t be targeting any individual American for prosecution. Nor should he, without using his power to pardon, relieve any American from lawful investigations or prosecutions. He can and should set policy priorities, but individual prosecutions should be left to investigators and prosecutors who follow the evidence and the law to seek justice without regard for politics. Yes, I know that politics intrudes on the process all too often, but each such intrusion represents a violation of trust and should not, ever, set a precedent.
Thus, if his promise is nothing more than, “I will not tell the attorney general to prosecute Hillary,” then it’s a welcome, wise move. But if it’s something more — a directive that the FBI and Department of Justice stand-down from any existing investigations — then it’s improper. President Trump will have the power to pardon, but President Trump should not be dictating whether any American — even a Clinton — is investigated or prosecuted. Leave Clinton’s fate to the rule of law, not the dictates of politics.