In the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Trump threatened not to accept the outcome if he lost. And there is every reason to believe that, had Hillary won, he would have made good on that threat. After all, Russia wanted him to keep stirring the pot.
Undoubtedly, Trump would have continued screaming that the election was “rigged.” He would have escalated his vicious attacks on “corrupt Hillary” and mobilized the “Lock her up!” crowd to dog her every public appearance. His Fox News fanboys and fangirls would have featured his tweets 24-7, and the Breitbart-Hannity echo chamber would have amplified his every utterance – just for starters.
Then, there’s Congress to consider. Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan, Trey Gowdy, and the rest would have had a field day, ginning up new reasons to investigate Hillary and recycling old ones.
And there is no reason to think that McConnell would have approved a Clinton nominee to the Supreme Court. If the incredibly well-qualified Merrick Garland didn’t pass muster, it’s doubtful anyone would. McConnell wasn’t waiting, as he claimed, for the next president to appoint a new justice. He was waiting for a REPUBLICAN to be elected president. And he would have waited as long as it took. Justice, quite literally, could be damned.
As for those Hillary might have nominated to cabinet and other high-level positions, McConnell and his lieutenants would have subjected them to an unprecedented level of obstruction. And with Republicans also holding the majority in the House, Hillary’s legislative initiatives would have been gutted at every turn.
It would have been gridlock on steroids — not a pretty picture.
But in an effort to find the silver lining, I offer one significant reason to be hopeful: Trump’s election has allowed us to look into Russia’s attack on our republic to an extent that Hillary’s election would have made much more difficult, if not impossible.
Certainly, in a Hillary Clinton Administration, any DOJ investigation into collusion between Russia and the Trump Team would be seen by many as political retribution against Hillary’s defeated opponent. It’s probable the country would have had little appetite – or patience – for an in-depth Mueller-style probe.
During the campaign, when Trump bellowed he would instruct his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Hillary’s “lies” and “deception,” many lawyers and legal scholars shuddered. Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe told Fortune that “[m]aking threats or vows to use a nation’s criminal justice system against one’s vanquished political opponent is worse than terrible policy: it’s incompatible with the survival of a stable constitutional republic.”
Indeed, precedent for a winning president to seek some sort of criminal action against a recent opponent is not easily found in democracies or republics, but is a defining feature of authoritarian regimes.
Had Hillary won, the GOP Congress and many in the media would have condemned a DOJ investigation into the Trump-Russia connection as a “witch hunt.” Never mind that the DOJ would not be acting on Hillary’s orders as she adheres to the long-established norm that DOJ must be independent of partisan politics. And never mind that the landscape was scattered with brooms, kettles, and pointy black hats.
But now that Trump sits in the Oval Office, there is every incentive to know whether he and his campaign danced with the devil, whether he – or they – conspired with a foreign foe. We need to find out whether the man who so warmly and inexplicably embraces Putin has, in fact, been compromised.
Russia’s attack on our election was nothing less than an act of war. But our commander in chief has shown no interest whatsoever in learning the truth. Perhaps he already knows the truth; perhaps it incriminates him.
Had Hillary won, we might never know what really happened. But Trump won. And now – God willing – we will.