Trump sounding different note on jailing Clinton

Trump sounding different note on jailing Clinton
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWhere do we go from here? Conservation can show the way Gov. Ron DeSantis more popular in Florida than Trump Sotomayor accuses Supreme Court of bias in favor of Trump administration MORE appears to be sounding a different note about jailing Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRussian interference reports rock Capitol Hill Judge dismisses Nunes' lawsuit against Fusion GPS The Hill's Campaign Report: What to watch for in Nevada MORE as president-elect, and it’s unclear whether the Republican will stick to his earlier threat.

“Lock her up” chants have been a standard feature of Trump campaign events and were heard at the New York Hilton on Tuesday night during Trump’s victory party.

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Yet when Trump took the stage early Wednesday morning, he notably did not mention legal action against his former Democratic rival.

Instead, Trump took a much softer tone during his brief remarks, which came after 3 a.m.

“Hillary has worked very long and very hard over a long period of time, and we owe her a major debt of gratitude for her service to our country,” Trump said. “I mean that very sincerely.

“Now it’s time for America to bind the wounds of division — we’ve got to get together. It is time for us to come together as one united people.”

Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said later in the morning that Trump “did not discuss [a special prosecutor] last night since his victory,” though she refused to rule out the possibility.

"He certainly didn’t address it with Mrs. Clinton on the phone,” she said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

On Tuesday, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R), who has been floated as a possible attorney general under Trump, refused to comment on the possibility of a renewed investigation into Clinton.

To some degree, Trump appears to be caught in a bind between the passionate enthusiasm of his supporters, who have salivated over the prospect of an indictment against Clinton, and legal norms that would view a new investigation as political retribution that violates the sanctity of the democratic system.

Republicans were livid this summer when the Justice Department announced that it would not file charges against Clinton or her allies over the personal email setup she used as secretary of State. Although it determined that Clinton had been “extremely careless,” there was not enough evidence to claim that laws protecting sensitive information had been broken, FBI Director James Comey said in July.

On Capitol Hill, Republican chairmen of four separate congressional committees have continuing probes into the matter, which aren’t likely to dissipate as quickly as Clinton’s presidential aspirations.

“There is a lot of things that we still need to figure out,” Oversight Chairman Jason ChaffetzJason ChaffetzThe myth of the conservative bestseller Elijah Cummings, Democratic chairman and powerful Trump critic, dies at 68 House Oversight panel demands DeVos turn over personal email records MORE (R-Utah) said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “It begs a lot of questions that I think we need to answer long term.”

A spokeswoman for Chaffetz did not respond to an inquiry from The Hill about his plans early on Wednesday morning.

Leaders from the House Judiciary and Senate Judiciary and Homeland Security committees had also demanded additional information from Comey about the FBI’s investigation. 

Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyMcSally unveils bill to lower drug prices amid tough campaign Ernst endorses bipartisan Grassley-Wyden bill to lower drug prices Overnight Health Care: Nevada union won't endorse before caucuses after 'Medicare for All' scrap | McConnell tees up votes on two abortion bills | CDC confirms 15th US coronavirus case MORE (R-Iowa) has called for an inspector general investigation into the handling of the probe. Grassley had questioned the scope of the FBI’s investigation and whether it included compulsory investigative techniques such as grand jury subpoenas or search warrants. He has also asked for details about the FBI's reported efforts to probe the Clinton Foundation and potential improper connections with the State Department.

“The growing number of unanswered questions demand explanations,” he said in a statement on Monday.

A spokeswoman for Grassley told The Hill in an email on Wednesday that he intends to keep the heat on that effort, notwithstanding Clinton’s Tuesday evening defeat.

“Sen. Grassley has always followed inquiries through to their logical end, until he feels he’s received the answers he needs to be able to satisfy the questions he posed on the public’s behalf,” said the spokeswoman, Taylor Foy. “He performs oversight regardless of which party holds the White House, just as he initiates oversight inquiries irrespective of politics.”

The questioning from Congress, however, has much lower stakes for Clinton, who is now a private citizen, than a renewed criminal case, which could be pending under a Trump administration.

Trump has suggested Clinton would land behind bars if he became president, while accusing the FBI of trying to protect the Democratic nominee.

“If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” Trump told Clinton during a debate in October. “Because there has never been so many lies, so much deception — there has never been anything like it. And we’re going to have a special prosecutor.”

Had he already been president, Trump added, “you would be in jail.”

The late discovery of new emails potentially related to the investigation injected late drama into the presidential race, but did not change the FBI’s initial determination, Comey said on Sunday.

Any order to reopen the case and pursue it aggressively would meet intense opposition from within the Department of Justice (DOJ). 

“I think Comey would resist it with all his might,” said Ron Hosko, a former senior FBI official who now leads the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund.

“And that sort of thing would have him walk away from the job, if push came to shove,” he added. “And I think if push came to shove, like they did before, the other side would back down — they’d back away from that. It would be a mistake.”

Comey famously stared down the George W. Bush administration while serving as acting attorney general during a period in which then-Attorney General John Ashcroft was laid up in the hospital. In a now-famous scene from 2004, Comey refused to reauthorize a controversial warrantless wiretapping program and, along with other officials, prepared a mass resignation when the White House tried to intervene.

“I would hope that [Trump’s] most trusted advisers would tell him that this is a mistake,” said Hosko.

Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman in the Obama administration who backed Clinton for president, agreed that Trump wouldn’t be likely to reopen the Clinton case.

“That’s one of the things I say is hard to imagine,” he said. “Because the way that Trump talks about the Justice Department and how he would handle it in his administration flies so in the face of the existing practices to ensure independence, that it’s hard to see how it would work.

“If he were to govern in the way he’s campaigned, I think you would see mass resignations at DOJ.”