Jeff Sessions validates chant to lock up Hillary Clinton

Jeff Sessions validates chant to lock up Hillary Clinton
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On Tuesday, at a Turning Point USA conference in Washington, Attorney General Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsLawmaker wants Chinese news outlet to register as foreign agent Trump-aligned group launches ad campaign hitting Doug Jones on impeachment ICE subpoenas Denver law enforcement: report MORE laughingly repeated the chant of conservative high school students to “lock her up,” referring to Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonDershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense Hillicon Valley — Presented by Philip Morris International — NFL social media accounts hacked | Dem questions border chief over controversial Facebook group | Clinton says Zuckerberg has 'authoritarian' views Clinton on Sanders comments: 'I wasn't thinking about the election' MORE. He said that he had “heard that a long time over the last campaign.” Sessions was referring, of course, to Republican presidential candidate Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWarren: Dershowitz presentation 'nonsensical,' 'could not follow it' Bolton told Barr he was concerned Trump did favors for autocrats: report Dershowitz: Bolton allegations would not constitute impeachable offense MORE’s campaign pledge to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate and charge “Crooked Hillary” with criminal behavior.

To the Justice Department’s credit, no special counsel was appointed to investigate Clinton. To the contrary, Trump’s own birds came home to roost when the Justice Department appointed, erroneously in my view, a special counsel to investigate alleged collusion between his campaign and Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. This all goes to show just how politicized our criminal justice system has become. Both sides try to criminalize their political opponents. Both sides try to misuse the delicate constitutional mechanism of impeachment for partisan benefit. Both sides are prepared to abandon enduring civil liberties and democratic principles to serve their political ends.

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The losers in this race to the bottom are the American people, who are best served by preserving tested neutral principles that should be applied equally to both sides of the political aisle. I call this the “shoe on the other foot test,” which is simply an application of the golden rule: Do unto Democrats what you would have Democrats do unto you and visa versa. Almost no one in our hyperpartisan world lives by this rule. Instead, for many Democrats, anything goes as long as it hurts Republicans, especially the president. For many Republicans and Trump voters, anything goes as long as it helps Trump and hurts Democrats.

I have insisted on applying the “other foot” test and the golden rule to my advocacy of civil liberties and constitutional rights. For this, I have, at different times, been pilloried by both sides and admired by both sides depending on whether my neutral principles hurt or help their partisan causes. Some misunderstand what I am doing. Others know exactly what I am doing but pretend not to do so, in order to condemn me. My position wins me no popularity contests, but neutral civil libertarians do not aspire to popularity. Rather, it is quite the opposite. Our main task is to defend the rights of whoever is most despised and unpopular, especially among our friends and peers at any point in time.

So I will continue to fight against the misuses of criminal law and the impeachment process without regard to who is hurt or helped. My life would be a lot easier right now if Hillary Clinton — for whom I voted — had been elected president and if Jeff Sessions were still in Senate leading the national chant of “lock her up” or “impeach her.” I would be making precisely the same arguments with reference to her as I am now making with reference to Trump. The difference is that Democrats would be praising me and Republicans would be condemning me.

Let me be clear that this is not about me. I refer to the reaction to my arguments only to make the larger point about hypocrisy on both sides of the aisle. Even more dangerous than this hypocrisy is the misuse of the law by both sides. We can survive hypocrisy, which may be inherent in partisan politics. But what we cannot survive is establishing dangerous precedents by one side that can be used later against the other side. These dangerous precedents, such as overcriminalization of political differences and stretching the law to fit unpopular targets, lay around like loaded weapons that are capable of being used by anyone in power against the most vulnerable of citizens in this country.

So these are critical issues that affect all Americans regardless of party affiliation. We should all care about the weaponization of the law by those in power or those seeking power. Sessions should be criticized for validating the chant of “lock her up.” As attorney general of the United States, he must reflect the utmost neutrality in administering the law. Not only must he do justice but he must appear to be doing justice. He did not satisfy that appearance by validating the chant of “lock her up.”

Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School. He is the author of “Trumped Up: How Criminalizing Politics is Dangerous to Democracy” and “The Case Against Impeaching Trump.” He is on Twitter @AlanDersh and Facebook @AlanMDershowitz.