Many right-wing pundits praised Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s pledge to “instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor” to “jail” Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email server, a threat mainstream journalists compared to what “dictators” do in a “banana republic.” Yet conservatives’ support for Trump’s planned abuses of governmental power is particularly hypocritical given that during the FBI and Department of Justice’s (DOJ) investigation into Clinton’s email use, right-wing media claimed the agencies were “politicized” and “corrupt.” It seems that a politicized Justice Department is fine so long as it achieves the right’s political goals.
During the second presidential debate, Trump warned Clinton, “I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” adding that she “would be in jail” under his administration.
Trump’s “unprecedented” threat was in line with what “dictators” do in “banana republics,” many journalists noted. CNN’s Dana Bash warned that Trump’s comments parallel the sorts of things “dictators and totalitarian leaders” like “Stalin or Hitler” did.
Yet conservative pundits cheered Trump’s dangerous attack with alacrity. Fox News host Steve Doocy called the threat “amazing,” Fox contributor Scott Brown cheered the line as a “home run,” and CNN’s Kayleigh McEnany applauded the threat as “a humorous line of retort.” Bill O'Reilly dubbed the attack “the smartest thing [Trump] did all night,” and Trump ally and dirty trickster Roger Stone said Trump “scored.”
Aside from aligning themselves with a pledge hinting at serious abuses of governmental power, the right-wing are highlighting their double standard for the integrity of democratic institutions. Conservatives led a full-throated, but baseless, crusade against the FBI, DOJ, and the White House after FBI Director James Comey recommended that the DOJ not indict Clinton following the investigation related to her use of a private email server.
Right-wing pundits attacked the FBI and DOJ for their “disregard for the rule of law” and claimed the decision is evidence that “the government is corrupt.” They asserted that the “highly politicized” DOJ is “no longer … an effective, impartial enforcer of the law” and instead is allowing “corruption [to] fester and grow.” Conservatives even attacked President Obama for endorsing Clinton amid the FBI investigation, claiming that his support revealed “a man who sees the Constitution as an impediment to be disregarded.”
That conservatives attacked the FBI and DOJ for allegedly flouting the law after they failed to deliver the desired result -- a Clinton indictment that would land her in jail -- but openly cheer Trump’s dictatorial threat to jail a political opponent reveals that politics eclipse the law in the right’s quest for power. Though right-wing calls for Clinton to be jailed are not new on the campaign trail, the embrace of Trump’s newest threat has lifted the veil on the right’s hypocrisy in terms of respecting the rule of law.