Appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton
Trump shows no interest, for now
President Donald Trump has made no move to seek a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton a month into his administration. Nor is there any indication that he will despite his pledge to voters.
The last words Trump offered on the subject came on Nov. 22, 2016, during an interview with reporters and editors at the New York Times.
Trump, when pressed about prosecuting Clinton over her use of a private email server while secretary of state, told reporters: "It's just not something that I feel very strongly about."
"My inclination would be for whatever power I have on the matter is to say let's go forward," Trump told the New York Times. This has been looked at for so long, ad nauseum."
The same day, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway went further in an interview on MSNBC, saying that Trump "doesn't wish to pursue these charges."
As we've noted before, it is not the job of the president to pursue the appointment of a special prosecutor. He can ask his attorney general to explore a topic but he can't order him to launch an investigation. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said during his confirmation hearing that he would recuse himself from any investigation of Clinton that might emerge.
Congress can appoint a special prosecutor but Republican leaders have shown no interest in exploring that in Clinton's case.
This promise sure looks on the path toward becoming broken, but we'll give Trump a little more time to see if anything materializes. For now, we rate this promise Stalled.
CBS News, Trump on appointing Clinton special prosecutor: "I'm going to think about it", Nov. 13, 2016
CNN, Trump flips, now opposes prosecution for Clinton, Nov. 22, 2016
Fox News, Under fire for conflicts, Trump backs off Clinton prosecution, Nov. 22, 2016
Trump promises to appoint a special prosecutor
In the last few months of the general election, crowds chanted "lock her up" at every single Donald Trump rally.
And Trump repeatedly told his supporters that he would oblige — promising to ask his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton and the private email server she used as secretary of state.
"I will ask, to appoint a special prosecutor," he said at an October 2016 rally. "We have to investigate Hillary Clinton, and we have to investigate the investigation."
"She has to go to jail," he said a couple days later.
If he were to carry this promise forward, it would be the first time a president tried to jail his former opponent. However, Trump seems to have backed away from it already.
WHY HE'S PROMISING IT
The FBI already conducted a year-long investigation into Clinton's private email server and whether Clinton or her staff mishandled classified information. Agents concluded that there was not enough evidence to bring criminal charges.
"Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information," said FBI Director James Comey in a July 2016 press conference.
Trump and other Republicans lambasted Comey over the FBI's decision — saying Clinton committed a series of crimes, the investigators made a mistake, and the justice system is trying to protect her.
WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN
Trump would have to ask his attorney general to consider appointing a non-government lawyer to serve as a special prosecutor. It is not within a president's authority to order the attorney general to pursue any particular line of inquiry.
Trump nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., for attorney general. Sessions has been a vocal critic of the FBI's handling of the Clinton email investigation. However, Sessions said during his Senate confirmation hearing Jan. 10 that he would recuse himself if the Clinton email investigation were to move forward.
WHAT'S STANDING IN HIS WAY
There are quite a few signs Trump won't direct his attorney general to seek criminal charges against Clinton.
First of all, it is a norm of American democracy that leaders do not try jail their political opponents. Leading legal experts have said that if the Trump administration were to prosecute Clinton, it would be unprecedented.
"This country doesn't punish its political enemies," Sessions said at his confirmation hearing.
And there's Trump's own feelings on the subject. Despite egging on the "lock her up" chants, he hinted in the weeks following his Nov. 8 win that he would let the whole thing go.
"I don't want to hurt the Clintons, I really don't," Trump told the New York Times in November. "She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways, and I am not looking to hurt them at all. The campaign was vicious."