Kellyanne Conway was in charge of Donald Trump’s campaign and is now working for his transition effort. She says that Trump has no plans to follow through on one of his main campaign promises. Conway confirms that Trump will not pursue any investigations against Hillary Clinton.
Conway says he’s thinking of various things while preparing to become the US president, and things from the campaign aren’t among them.
There’s an implied admission that Trump insisting to prosecute Clinton was just campaign talk. However, what’s missing from Conway’s answer is the plain fact that as president, Trump won’t have authority to prosecute Clinton. And it’s good that no president has that power.
Daniel Richman, Columbia University professor and a former federal prosecutor, explains how the president can influence authority over the government’s criminal investigations.
Richman says that the president can target vast areas for focus through his attorney general.
As the executive branch leader, the president does have some say over policy decisions, such as what cases or kinds of offenses get priority. However, there is a line between individual cases and general priorities. There are a considerable amount of protections and conventions to keep the president out of certain situations.
Richman also adds that it’s not entirely rare for a president to try to target individuals. For example, Nicky Barnes, a New York drug dealer that was on the cover of the 1977 New York Times Magazine, to President Carter’s great displeasure.
After Watergate, there have been attempts to guard communications between the Justice Department and the White House. There is usually a person designated in the counsel’s office. They are watched carefully and monitored in the Justice Department to ensure not much is done concerning certain cases.
It’s a simple goal: Keep the independence of prosecutors and federal investigators from political influences. The system is set up to stop the White House from accessing federal investigations for political use in exactly the same way Trump was threatening.
Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas says Trump has again proven his lack of knowledge on how the government makes decisions like this. The attorney general reports to the president. However, the department is independent, especially when dealing with prosecutor decisions. All presidents must respect and understand that, or they risk politicizing prosecutions in damaging ways.
Richman explains how many tiers a prosecution needs to filter through. First the FBI, then the attorneys in the Justice Department, then the judiciary, and finally the convicting jury.
Conway suggests that Trump was generous in trying to transform his campaign into reality, rather than having the power to act.
Conway adds that Clinton still has to face it that the majority of Americans don’t find her trustworthy. But if Trump can help her recover, then that might not be a bad thing.
In a poll prior to the election, the majority of Americans also thought Trump wasn’t honest either.