mead berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
How norms erode
What to Make of Trump’s Debate-Night Threat
Features Icon
show comments
  • C_Before_E

    Cute sidebar on that ole irresponsible media making inappropriate and never realized suggestions. Thing is, it’s the actual candidate who is the real story — specifically Trump threatening to prosecute and imprison Mrs Clinton, something that Mrs Clinton or Mr Obama (or anybody sane, for that matter) would never do.

    • Dale Fayda

      Read the comments above. The FBI “investigation” of Hillary’s criminal conduct stinks to high heaven. Bill Clinton busted secretly meeting with Loretta Lynch on the tarmac in Phoenix just days before the FBI was to render its recommendation on the indictment and all they talked about was golf and their grandchildren? Do you believe that?

      Let’s try this… A local DA is caught secretly meeting with the spouse of a local union boss, who’s being investigated by the local cops for corruption. The meeting lasts around 40 minutes, with all appearances being that it was meant to be conducted with no witnesses as to what was said. At the very least, the DA would be kicked off the case and reprimanded and possibly lose his/her job and a new prosecutor appointed, yes?

      Yet, a similar breach of conduct by two experienced lawyers (Bubba and Loretta) barely caused a ripple in the media and none of the players had as much as an eye lash brushed back into their eye for it.

      Imagine if Melania Trump had had a clandestine meeting with the Attorney General while Donald was under an FBI criminal investigation and he got off scot-free just a few days later? You’d be setting yourself on fire with indignation at this blatant miscarriage of justice, wouldn’t you?

      • JR

        But, but, but, Democrats are good and noble. And they care!!!!

  • Andrew Allison

    Um, is there any doubt that, absent a corrupted Department of Justice, Mrs Clinton would be on her way to jail?

    • Nevis07

      If it wasn’t the actual scolding that Comey gave in his statement explaining that anybody else would have faced prosecution, what else could give it away? Oh wait, I know, how about a short private meeting between the Sec of the DOJ and the spouse of the person under investigation!

    • Beauceron

      It should also be pointed out that Democrats have frequently prosecuted their opponents:

      “16 Times Democrats Tried To Prosecute Their Opponents”

      It’s the progressive mantra: It’s Different When We Do It.

    • Jim__L

      Mrs. Clinton *belongs* in jail. Everything else is secondary.

      • Andrew Allison

        I agree, but under the law (such as it is these days) there need to be a prosecution and a conviction. Hence my choice of words. Amusingly, her shills in the mainstream media who equate a prosecution with jailing her appear to agree with us about where she belongs.

  • Nevis07

    Good analysis, Jason. Interesting to hear the hypocrisy of this. You certainly won’t hear of it from the MSM.

    Personally, I’ve been somewhat confused as to the denouncement of Trump’s call for prosecution. Still, while I’m no fan of Trump, I fail to understand how upholding the law somehow damages American democracy. As explained in the above piece, if the law is applied equally, then you end up strengthening the legal institutions, and thereby our democracy, not weakening them. Should elements of the Bush administration be prosecuted? Probably. But they won’t be, just as Hillary won’t be.

    Trump, as I understand it, called for a special investigation to take place. That implies that an investigation would still have to determine if a crime did or did not occur. Therefore the liberal media’s panic is very much an admission of guilt on Hillary’s part, that so far they’ve been unwilling to concede. The saddest part of all of this is that there is as far as I can tell (and basically every person of various backgrounds I know agree) is that nobody trusts that the FBI actually performed a genuine investigation that could be trusted; that any other person would have been prosecuted. That’s the REAL danger to American democracy.

    • pagalvin

      No candidate for the Presidency in my lifetime, so far as I know, has gotten on the stage in front of the whole country and announced that he plans to set in motion a plan that will lead to the incarceration of his opponent. I am not aware of any candidacy like that, though I’m not expert on the subject. He’s essentially making a promise to America that he will attempt to incarcerate his opponent and he’s hoping to win votes on that basis. That is not how our country has ever operated.

      • Nevis07

        True, but the point I was trying to make is that law and justice can only function if there appears to be an even handedness in delivering that justice. In an odd way, because of everything the public learned from leaked documents, public statements and facts learned (not least of which was Comey’s statement) the presumption of innocence effectively is gone. When you have the director of the FBI stating publically that anyone else caught doing the same would face prosecution and that “intent” was indeterminable and that he didn’t think that any lawyer would take the case on that basis, it became clear that the FBI recommendation was politically motivated. I suspect there’s tens of thousands of lawyers in DC that would be more than happy to take that case. And if intent to commit a crime risking national security, then we have to ask what really qualifies as intent.

        So yes, presumption of innocence unfortunately has been last. But that is on the FBI, the DOJ and the Obama administration. They are the ones that have weakened American democracy, not Trump. They are the ones that have suspended or obstructed law and justice. Just the hint of politicization of law weakens that institution, let alone actually following through on it. There are no excuses for this in my opinion.

        • pagalvin

          I appreciate the thoughtful response and I am sympathetic to the “loss of innocence” argument.

          I do think that Trump weakens our democracy when he threatens legal vengeance against his opponent. It creates a horrific conflict.

          I think that most people don’t take him seriously. I suspect that you and don’t. His campaign manager says it was a “quip” yet he was just in PA an our or two ago whipping up the crowd’s enthusiasm for it. Let’s assume he’s serious. Let’s assume that Hillary Clinton takes him seriously.

          Now what? What does she do?

          If she’s losing, does she try and make some kind of secret deal with him to avoid prosecution? Does she look for some extreme dirt on him to use as a lever against the threat of personal incarceration? Does she think about disputing the election? Does she think about fleeing the country? Almost any of these things could be responses to a such a personal threat from her opponent.

          And what if she made a similar threat? What if she got up on that stage and said she was going to arrange for a special prosecutor to go after Trump’s casino dealings and alleged mob connections? How would he respond if he took her seriously?

          How would the country respond?

          We don’t have to look far to see how these scenarios play out in other parts of the world.

          I think that this is ultimately why Obama did virtually nothing to investigate Iraq, as painful as it felt to me at the time.

          So again, I’m sympathetic to the issue. I am very uncomfortable with what she did. But trying to win an election by threatening your opponent with personal destruction is terrifying to me and to a lot of people who think along these lines.

          So in the end, are you still confused? Maybe you disagree but I think I’ve captured the nature of the fear, wrong-minded though you may think I am.

          • Nevis07

            Actually, I very much takes seriously Trump’s plans to follow through with his threat to prosecute if given the chance. I’m partial to it in fact. It was no quip, it was a genuine threat. As to what she does now? I think all of your questions are a bit superfluous. I’m not trying to be insulting, I just think they are beyond a reasonable pointlessness.

            Again, the law is the law, if a man drinks and drives and kills your kid in an accident does it matter if he intended the death or not? Of course not. Trump should be tried for crimes if in fact he has committed some (through by Bill Clinton standards it appears various levels of sexual assault are not deal breakers for most Americans). Is endangering national security on par with a not so qualified Trump University degree?

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m also partial to your argument. The problem is at what point does it end. Obama may well have done the right thing to not prosecute Bush administration officials for numerous crimes. But at a certain point, we have to draw a line. Where is that line? When a candidate of either party commits murder when the glove fits the hand? At some point we need to find a place to say ‘this is too much.’ So, to answer your question, yes I still am confused as to what deliniates proper application of the law; my concern for you is that you’ve given up all hope of ever actually applicating the law to any of our leadership class.

          • pagalvin

            Well, I think we can find common ground on murder :). Murder obviously crosses the line.

            I can’t place the line and I’m not really trying to. Without giving it a lot of thought, I’d say that matters that are largely political in nature should not trigger the threat of legal vengeance. Your point of view that national security was endangered is not as clear to others as it is to you.

            You started off the thread by being confused over why anyone would think Trump’s threats would be a big deal (paraphrasing obviously 🙂 ). Can you understand why? I understand not agreeing, but there’s some genuine fear underlying it. At least on my part.

          • Nevis07

            Hi pagalvin. I think we’re not actually that far from each other’s opinion. More opposite sides of the same coin.

            Just note that my first comment was that I was confused as to the DENOUNCEMENTS of Trump’s call for prosecution. In other words, my confusion is over why one should fret over the application of the rule of law, rather than applying law itself.

            Either way, progress was made in this discussion. Be well.

          • pagalvin

            Thank you. Best conversation in pretty much forever for me. Be well yourself ;).

          • Jim__L

            Matters are NOT “largely political in nature”, for Hillary’s behavior. They are a matter of national security. When similarly placed people misused classified information in past years, the direct result was that the US failed to prevent 9/11.

            Loose lips sink ships.

            It is not simply a threat to our democracy when a politician like Hillary is above the law; when they are above the laws that she has broken, it is a threat to the lives of our citizens.

            It is clear that if death is where you draw the line, Hillary is on the “prosecute” side of the line.

          • Jim__L

            The only decent thing to do for Hillary would be to step aside, admit wrongdoing, and face prosecution.

            It would be a far, far better thing that she did.

      • Beauceron


        16 Times Democrats Tried To Prosecute Their Opponents

        It’s just that it’s different when you do it.

  • Fat_Man

    Threats against Clinton. The Clintons don’t make threats, they make funerals.

    • Nevis07

      Have no doubt, once this race is over (or perhaps before) there will be a slew of sexual assault or rape allegations against Trump. How many of them are genuine I don’t know, but I would not be surprised if someone from the Clinton campaign aided in this.

      • pagalvin

        There already are both. And I agree, hard to know if genuine. No help required from the Clintons.

        • Fat_Man

          The old adage is never mud wrestle with a pig. It says nothing about two pigs mud wrestling.

  • Amadeus 48

    The pearl-clutching here is amusing. Trump basically called for a special prosecutor to deal with a situation where a person then holding one of our highest Constitutional offices engaged in behavior that was highly irregular with respect to national security, and then organs of our federal government appear to have engaged in a whitewash of that behavior after an investigation that appears to have been rigged by the current administration. Trump said what a lot of us have been thinking. Paul Krugman is not one of us, obviously. Jonathan Chait is only concerned that the erosion of norms is only being eroded NOW? Where was he when Obamacare was passed with no Republican votes? Where has he been while President Pen and Phone has been trampling on the will of the people as expressed in the 2014 mid-term elections?
    Pull the other one, mate. It has bells on it.

  • pagalvin

    Krugman called on Obama for an inquest. Didn’t suggest throwing anyone in jail and he wasn’t running against Bush anyway. Obviously inquest may have led to some kind of criminal process, but that’s all speculation. Last night, Trump essentially said that he’s going to find a friendly AG (e.g. Giuliana or Christie) and ensure she ends up in prison because, naturally, that’s the only purpose of such a thing. These are not equivalent things.

    • Amadeus 48

      You are kidding yourself. Re-read the fourth paragraph of Mr. Willick’s note. But, in the spirit of the times, keep f*&^%$g that chicken if you want to.

      • pagalvin

        Okidokie, then. I retreat with my chicken and cede the floor to you, dear composer.

    • f1b0nacc1

      Actually he said that he would call upon a future AG to appoint a special prosecutor…which means in fact an investigation. Since this would then go to a court, he would have no way to ‘ensure she ends up in prison’, though I suspect that any reasonable court would oblige in this case.
      Much more to the point, how does Trump’s (perhaps intemperate) statement differ in any substantive way than Krugman’s? Both are calling for investigation and perhaps prosecution of a private citizen for alleged crimes. Krugman can claim that he would only be advocating such an investigation, Trump could appoint someone to do it, but other than that, there seems to be little to choose between them.
      The appalling conduct of the Clintons, and the shameful behavior of the FBI and Justice Department have created an environment where many believe that the only way the Clintons will be called to account is by such means. I don’t care for this situation myself, but lets not pretend that this is some outrageous departure from existing norms. Trump isn’t calling for prosecution based upon HRC’s temerity to run against him (forgive the sarcasm), but rather real crimes that even the FBI found her responsible for. To use your own words “These are not equivalent things”

      • pagalvin

        Most of us think that Trump goes further than merely suggesting that he’s going to call a future AG to investigate his opponent. I know it’s possible to parse his words to suggest he merely wants (finally!) a properly impartial investigation and that the chips will fall where they may. Do you think that his opponent thinks that? If she doesn’t, what do you expect her to do? What do you expect to happen in future elections where the threat of legal vengeance overhangs the process? What if she reciprocates?

        Krugman is an influential but ultimately powerless voice. When Trump gets up there and says, however sorry he is, that he’s going to set in motion a chain of events that could lead to her personal ruin, he isn’t powerless. He’s creating overwhelming incentives for his opponent to take some kind of action in response – incentives Krugman could never hope to bring to bear.

        Maybe you think the calculus works out for the better good in this case. Do you think this should become the standard way we conduct ourselves? Where does this work well today? Where has this worked well in the past?

        • f1b0nacc1

          Given that Trump specifically referred to existing crimes (i.e. things she has already done), other than simple paranoia, what basis is there for suggesting otherwise? It seems that you are the one parsing his words. As for what HRC thinks…do you honestly believe that she isn’t already aware of what she has done? I pay her the courtesy of assuming that she knows just how bad her situation would be under anyone even moderately impartial…are you going to try to suggest that she isn’t aware of this? If so, she really is unqualified by reason of insanity.

          Regarding the precedent this sets, the Dems established that precedent already with Obama’s pre-election comments, and the open calls by many in the Democratic party for even more. Given the low level of respect for the rule of law or due process already shown by the Dems, I would suggest that those of us on the Right have considerably more to fear than those on the Left. I don’t think that this will go well no matter what happens, by the way….I oppose prosecutions based upon politics, but that also shouldn’t be seen as a ‘get out of jail free’ card for political candidates to violate the law with impunity. Tell me, how would you suggest dealing with HRC’s obvious violations of the law…

          • pagalvin

            Have you looked at his twitter feed? Did you hear him talking in PA today? He’s not being nearly as precise as you suggest. I don’t believe he’s really trying to win new voters at this point, but let’s suppose that he is. He leads “lock her up chants.” He sends out ominous pictures on twitter (which he or someone like Kellyanne Conway has apparently since deleted) showing him looking stern with the caption, “You’ll be in jail”. Don’t you think this comes across as a promise of legal vengeance against his opponent? Isn’t Trump trying to win votes, in part, on a promise to deliver a legal result when he does things like this?

            I absolutely agree that there’s a precedence for Democrats to call for it, but never yet the candidate – the one person that can actually deliver on the promise of a legal result. Not in my lifetime anyway.

            I think we all have a lot to fear, left or right, when Presidential candidates start promising things like this, explicit or implicit. That’s my fundamental point.

            As for Hillary’s “obvious violations of law” – as much as you don’t agree with me on this, this seems to be a political opinion. As a political opinion it should be dealt with via an election. I know you don’t agree, but that’s where I am.

          • f1b0nacc1

            Of course he is….he is a politician fishing for votes, that is after all what they do. Let me suggest he is almost as serious about ‘locking her up’ as HRC is about free college and other red meat for the base. Personally, given the Left’s long history of threatening to prosecute those they disagree with (the IRS abuse of conservative groups prior to both 2012 and this year, something that the IRS no longer bothers to deny, is merely one example), the time is long past to give them a taste of their own medicine. A promise of an investigation, likely leading to legal action against someone who has committed a crime is what you are seeing here, not a threat of legal action for its own sake. That is a crucial difference. Trump isn’t proposing action against GOP primary opponents, for instance…

            Regarding HRC’s actions, even Comey acknowledges that she broke the law, he declined to recommend prosecution because he didn’t believe it was provable…once again, a very big difference. One doesn’t determine such things via an election, one takes it to court and resolves it there. Defining it as a political matter is the sort of slight of hand that encourages those in opposition to what she has done to believe that the only way it can be dealt with is this sort of action. In a way you make my point…defending this sort of behavior (which is ultimately what you are advocating) makes it clear that the HRC supporters will not take any steps against her no matter what she does. Compare this to the multitude of conservatives and moderates in the GOP who have (correctly or incorrectly) decided to reject Trump no matter what.

            I understand that you are arguing in good faith, and I appreciate that. I believe you are fundamentally mistaken, but I thank you for your manners and good will.

          • Jim__L

            Has Obama closed Guantanamo Bay yet?

            Candidate Obama probably saw some measure of self-interest in not going after Bush Administration figures, which would explain his unwillingness to follow through on his early interest in prosecuting them.

            He didn’t want someone prosecuted for using the same tools he was likely to use.

          • pagalvin

            Thank you for the thoughtful conversation.

    • JR

      Given how Hillary got away from an obviously compromised DoJ investigation, let’s stop pretending that the rule of law is sacred here. It is those on the Left that persecute their opponents with speech codes and conveniently planted questions about IRS scandals. IF Bush was President and IRS was possibly investigating liberal organizations you would have set yourself on fire with indignation. So let’s not clutch our pearls with the talk of what equivalence is. Bubba has a problem defining “is”.

  • gabrielsyme

    There’s a big difference over launching prosecutions over essentially partisan interpretations of the law, which is what Krugman advocated; and prosecuting where the law is clear and undisputed, and the only question is whether the official did the actions that constitute breaking the law. Holding political officials to disputed and partisan interpretations of the law is a bad idea – but failing to hold political officials to the clear, impartial and undisputed requirements of the law is far, far worse.

    • Jim__L


  • FriendlyGoat

    The correct answer to all of this man-splaining is for the female voters of America to inform Mr. Trump that he is not the president. I do not know that will happen, but I know it most certainly can happen.

  • JR

    If only we had confiscatory tax rates above a certain random amount, we never would have had Donald Tump to begin with.
    Friendly Goat is not the only one here with message discipline. I too will not mention the topic of media hypocrisy, the subject of this article.

  • Peter Wales

    It wasn’t a threat. Not remotely. He simply said that if the rule of law applied, as it would under his presidency, then the FBI would have done their job. The justice system should not be hindered by corruption and intimidation.

  • Jacksonian_Libertarian

    The “Rule of Law” means that if you do the “Crime” you do the “Time”. But the Clinton’s have been getting away with felonies that would put most Americans in prison. That is WRONG!

  • Beauceron

    I’m sorry, but it has become pretty obvious that the DOJ and FBI bent prosecutorial norms to the breaking point during their faux HRC investigation.

    The danger to the nation’s body politic isn’t that one presidential candidate threatened to make sure another candidate faces justice, it’s that a sitting president and those he appointed to some of the highest offices in our legal system clearly conspired to ensure that one of their former administration colleagues and someone now in line for the presidency would not be indicted from the outset of the investigation. How does a massive amount of evidence that was protected under subpoena get destroyed and no one is held to account for it? How is it that a string of people that are part of an investigation lie to the FBI repeatedly and not be held to account? How is it that someone evaded the rules for protecting classified information is not held to account?

    Trump’s threat pales in comparison.

  • Anthony

  • Boritz

    Once again Dr. Frankenstein thought that he could control his monster. We can corrupt the FBI and the DOj without the corruption spreading and causing additional corruption and problems for us. Here are the rules of monster movies for Hillary’s generation:
    Rule number 1: The girl always tries to make her escape by running across uneven terrain in high heels.
    Rule number 2: She always trips and falls.
    Rule number 3: The monster is instantly upon her.

  • Jim__L

    This is the kind of basic investigative reporting the mainstream media SHOULD be doing these days…

    Article title: “This Man Did What Hillary Did With Classified Information, and He’s In Jail”

    Why is there even a question of whether Hillary should be above the law?

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service