NEW YORK – While Donald Trump and spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway have indicated the president-elect has no intention of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified information and her family foundation, a Trump insider tells WND the statements should be interpreted narrowly, describing them as a shrewd effort to buy time and foster a spirit of “magnanimity” during the transition period.
Once Trump has taken the oath of office, the insider noted, the decision to launch an investigation rests with the attorney general, who has the power to convene a criminal grand jury or appoint a special prosecutor.
Further, Congress has the power to investigate and recommend the Department of Justice pursue a criminal prosecution.
Regarding the Clinton Foundation and allegations of “pay to play,” state attorneys general in states where the charity is registered also would have the authority to launch an investigation.
WND reported Nov. 7 that Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, confirmed the House Judiciary Committee had sent a “preservation letter” to the Department of Justice demanding the Justice Department maintain for Congress copies of the approximately 650,000 emails related to Clinton’s State Department tenure found on the laptop of former Rep. Anthony Weiner.
King, WND later reported, believes a congressional investigation under the incoming Trump administration could raise additional evidence against Clinton or against one of her close aides at the State Department, including Cheryl Mills and Huma Abedin, that might induce a new FBI director to convene a grand jury.
Even as president, Trump will not have the authority to order the House Judiciary Committee to cease and desist from the investigation into the contents of Weiner’s laptops. Nor can he block any recommendations to prosecute that the House Judiciary Committee may decide to make to the Department of Justice as a result of an investigation.
Words carefully chosen
Conway addressed the issue on Tuesday on the MSNBC “Morning Joe” television show.
“I think when the president-elect who’s also the head of your party … tells you before he’s even inaugurated he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone and content, to the members,” Conway said.
“Look, I think, he’s thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign are not among them,” Conway continued, limiting her comments to Trump’s concerns as president-elect.
“I think Hillary Clinton still has to face the fact that a majority of Americans don’t find her to be honest or trustworthy, but if Donald Trump can help her heal, then perhaps that’s a good thing,” Conway concluded.
Later Tuesday, New York Times reporter Mike Grynbaum tweeted Trump’s statements on the issue in a meeting with the paper.
Grynbaum said Trump was “pressed if he has definitively ruled out prosecuting Hillary Clinton.”
He quoted Trump saying: “It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about.”
Trump further said, according to Grynbaum: “I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t. She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.”
When asked by the New York Times reporters if his apparent “reversal” would cause a backlash among supporters, Trump answered: “I don’t think they will be disappointed. I think I will explain it that we in many ways will save our country,” adding that prosecuting Clinton “would be very, very divisive for the country.”
The New York Post recalled Trump’s promise during the campaign: “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception.”
AG has the authority
The U.S. attorney general has the authority to appoint special prosecutors under U.S. Department of Justice regulations as specified in 28 Code of Federal Regulations 600.1.
After President Nixon in the Watergate affair ordered Attorney General Eliot Richardson to fire Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox in what became known as the October 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre,” Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, creating the U.S. Office of the Independent Counsel.
It was replaced in 1999 by the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Special Counsel.
Neither Conway’s statement to MSNBC nor Trump’s statement to the New York Times gives any reason to believe Trump would object should his attorney general – he has nominated Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala. – decide to convene a grand jury or to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate any crimes Clinton may have committed.
Also, nothing Conway or Trump said Tuesday suggested the Trump administration would make any attempt to stop an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation that evidently is ongoing or any criminal prosecutions that may result from evidence gained in the seizure of Anthony Weiner’s laptop.