Politics & Policy

Lock Her Up

(Reuters photo: Adrees Latif)
The Trump administration should pursue the case against Hillary Rodham Clinton.

If there is anything more to Donald Trump than bluster, we have yet to see it.

Trump has not even been sworn in as president, and he already is walking away from campaign promises that are too hard to keep, starting with his pledge to pursue the case against Hillary Rodham Clinton, who violated national-security laws, lied about it, and very likely suborned criminal acts by others, including obstruction of justice.

Speaking in the jabberwocky that is the lingua franca of Planet Trump, Kellyanne Conway says that the president-elect already has turned his back on his swaggering campaign promise to put his opponent in jail for what are — let us keep in mind — serious crimes. “Look, I think he’s thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign aren’t among them.” Trump, she explained, is “also the head of your party now,” so when he “tells you before he’s even inaugurated he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message.”

That’s a lot of words when one of two might have sufficed: “laziness” or “cowardice.”

What, exactly, are those “many different things” about which the president-elect is thinking? Surely, pursuing a case against Mrs. Clinton would be difficult, especially for Trump, whose legal experience is mostly limited to local planning-and-zoning regulations, defamation claims, and bankruptcy court. It could prove politically costly in the event that it is unsuccessful — and even more politically costly in the event that it isn’t. Those are all good reasons, from Trump’s point of view, to decline to pursue the case.

But among those “many different things” upon which he is meditating, there is one question that ought to trump the others: Did Clinton break the law in a manner that warrants prosecution, and did she escape that prosecution only because the Obama administration, which has politicized every federal agency from the IRS to the Justice Department to the ATF to the National Labor Relations Board, spared her from indictment in the service of its own narrow political self-interest?

Either there is a case to be made against Mrs. Clinton or there is not. The information that has been made public by the FBI suggests very strongly that there is. The corruption of the Obama administration is not in question, and the judgment of its DOJ in this matter is therefore without much weight.

All of that points in the same direction: investigation.

Either there is a case to be made against Mrs. Clinton or there is not. The information that has been made public by the FBI suggests very strongly that there is.

American government at all levels is characterized by a “tough on crime” posture, but there is a political reality underlying that rhetoric. We are in fact very tough — to the point of cruelty — on crimes and “crimes” that land the poor and the politically powerless in the dock: We will happily lock you up, with righteousness in our hearts, if you are caught with verboten vegetation or if you get behind in your child-support payments. We will spend millions of dollars on surveillance infrastructure for such revenue-generating novelties as red-light cameras and the like, while keeping known jihadists under surveillance is apparently beyond our capabilities. We’ll make a federal case out of it if you braid somebody’s hair without giving the politicians a cut, but we won’t make a federal case out of it when a high-ranking federal official — one who nearly became the highest-ranking federal official — violates critical national-security laws and then engages in a potentially criminal cover-up.

Does that strike anybody else as odd?

If anything, the priorities should be reversed. While it applies at all levels of government, it is especially true at the federal level that instances of official wrongdoing, whether by elected officials or career civil servants, should receive the highest priority in criminal prosecution. But we can hardly manage to fire civil servants who refuse to do their jobs because they are too busy spending their days watching porn and endeavoring to hold tightly the pelican by his mouth pouch.

#related#The Clinton e-mail case is not only about e-mails. As my friend Andrew C. McCarthy and others have argued persuasively, the scandal is only the vestibule in a Taj Mahal of corruption centered on the Clinton Foundation and its dodgy financial dealings.

But President-elect Trump, to the extent that he can be said to think at all, apparently is not thinking about that. He is thinking of many things, we are assured, and we can be confident that they are dominated by the short-term interests of Donald Trump, who is the political version of the dog who accidentally caught the car, which turned out to be a steamroller.

There is a case to be made against Mrs. Clinton and against the wider baleful and corrupting influence of Clinton, Inc. But making that case would take some guts, wisdom, and a sense of honor. Despite Trump’s toilet-gilding riches, those precious commodities remain out of his reach.

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