This is not the first time I've touched on the threat/promise by Donald Trump to, should he win the presidency, throw Hillary Clinton into prison. (See Trump 37, "Lock her up.") There, I pointed out the danger of getting into the practice of prosecuting and imprisoning one's political adversaries - this being something that tyrannies, not solid democracies, do. But this topic, revisited so forcefully in Sunday's town hall presidential debate, carries with it a second concern maybe even more frightening than the first.
At the debate, Trump said, “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation. Because there has never been so many lies, so much deception. There has never been anything like it. And we’re gonna have a special prosecutor.” Later, Trump said Clinton would have good reason to fear a Trump presidency “because you’d be in jail.”
Trump's campaign manager tried on Monday to call the jail comment "a quip". Sorry - these guys have long since run through their quota of trying to excuse dangerous and apalling comments by saying, "can't you take a joke?" Its nothing more than the stupid defense of a caught-out schoolyard bully.
Not only that, but about the same time Monday Trump running mate Mike Pence called that "one of the better moments" of the debate.
Besides that , as Politico reported: "When Trump spoke Monday in Pennsylvania, he clearly reiterated the special prosecutor pledge, but did not explicitly call for Clinton to be jailed. However, he did look on approvingly, smiling and pointing as his speech was interrupted with the chants about putting the Democratic nominee behind bars."
Most specifically, Trump was calling on prosecuting and imprisoning - convicted and sentenced without so much as a review of whatever evidence there may be - his political opponent for some unspecified offense (does it matter what it is? Apparently not). In other words, to hell with due process, and the 5th and 14th amendments to the Constitution.
In other words, throw the Constitution out the window: Trump has anointed himself judge, jury and executioner.
As of now, he's mentioned only Hillary Clinton as a target. But can you imagine it would stop there? Anyone who got in Trump's way, if he was able to get away with it (i.e., hire enough subservient underlings to do whatever garbage he wanted done), would be at imminent risk of arrest and punishment, which might range to . . . oh, hell, since Trump is already on record supporting torture "and much worse," there's really no limit to what he might do to you.
If you think that's hyperbolic, listen to some people - quoted in an article of Politico - not prone to great exaggeration: federal attorneys.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder warned, "he is promising to abuse the power of the office."
Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor with experince in the George W. Bush White House (now at a private law firm), said “A special prosecutor is supposed to investigate and isn’t appointed to put people in jail. You’re kind of skipping over an important step there. Can you imagine being the defendant prosecuted after being told the prosecutor was someone who was appointed to put you in jail, that had already foreordained that result? ... It’s absurd and, if it were serious, it would be absolutely terrifying because it suggests there’s no due process.”
Politico noted, "Prosecutors said it would be a violation of legal ethics for an attorney general to accept such a direction, although they said it was less clear whether it would be outright illegal.
'It would be, at the very least, unethical, and it may be a violation of law,' Paul Charlton, who spent a decade as a federal prosecutor before serving as U.S. attorney for Arizona under President George W. Bush said. He also said anyone prosecuted in such a situation would have a strong argument that his or her constitutional rights to due process had been violated."
The rule of law, as imperfect as it may be, would be replaced by the rule of Trump. God help us all. - rs