Prison is always creeping into President Trump’s thoughts. On Twitter, in interviews, at campaign rallies, the president is constantly referencing jail or crimes punishable by time inside a cramped cell.
It is not that Trump is focusing on how two members of his inner circle — Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort — are looking at serious prison sentences. Rather, Trump’s mind is constantly zeroing in on allegations and felonious innuendoes related to his enemies. It seems that if you are on the president’s bad side, jail or prison is where you belong. Trump generally fires off these claims despite having zero obvious evidence of any actual illegal behavior.
Wednesday was a good example. On Trump’s Twitter page, the president shared a meme from a supporter’s account showing a variety of Trump enemies locked up behind bars. Included in the cast of characters was Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein, the Justice Department official who until recently was overseeing special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russian election interference.
When asked later about why he would share an image featuring Rosenstein locked up, Trump had a blunt answer: “He should have never picked a special counsel,” Trump told the New York Post.
Rosenstein joins a crowded roster. The president often undercuts his political enemies by suggesting they are criminals or have broken the law in some way. It’s a group that contains the usual suspects (the Clintons), “the Democrats” in general, as he tweeted Thursday morning, and some surprises (Snoop Dogg?).
What follows is a by-no-means-complete list of the figures the president has publicly said should be jailed or investigated or has accused of committing high crimes and misdemeanors — allegations that seem to have no basis in reality.
Perched at the top of the list is obviously Hillary Clinton. As Trump’s foe in the bitter 2016 presidential election, Clinton was an easy target for Trump’s attacks. “Lock her up” chants are still a fixture at Trump’s rallies. Just weeks before the presidential election, then-candidate Trump tweeted: “Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail. Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election.”
Second only to Clinton is the Obama administration, which has been a regular foil for Trump’s barbs. “The Obama Administration is now accused of trying to give Iran secret access to the financial system of the United States,” Trump jabbed on Twitter last June. “This is totally illegal.”
Let’s not forget James B. Comey, the former FBI director whose termination last year sparked much of the legal hassles that have consumed Trump’s presidency. As the New York Times reported earlier this month, the president wanted the Justice Department to prosecute both Clinton and Comey.
Liberal philanthropist George Soros, a figure of contempt on the right, is also among the individuals Trump has targeted for incarceration. Only hours after a pipe bomb was delivered to Soros’s home last month, the president gave a White House speech calling for unity. When members of the audience yelled Soros’s name and “Lock him up,” Trump reportedly laughed and repeated the phrase.
Trump is quick to point out corruption and possible bad acts everywhere.
Trump also called out former secretary of state John F. Kerry for “illegal” meetings with the Iranian regime: “John Kerry had illegal meetings with the very hostile Iranian Regime, which can only serve to undercut our great work to the detriment of the American people,” Trump tweeted in September. “He told them to wait out the Trump Administration! Was he registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act? BAD!”
Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, was a regular Trump target: “Why isn’t disgraced FBI official Andrew McCabe being investigated for the $700,000 Crooked Hillary Democrats in Virginia, led by Clinton best friend Terry M (under FBI investigation that they killed) gave to McCabe’s wife in her run for office?” the president tweeted in May.
The list goes on.
“Paul Begala, the dopey @CNN flunky and head of the Pro-Hillary Clinton Super PAC, has knowingly committed fraud in his first ad against me,” he wrote of the television political commentator in May 2016.
Steve Rattner, a former Obama official and current cable news personality, has also been attacked by the president. “.@SteveRattner While I think you should have gone to prison for what you did, I guess Obama saved you. But watch — I will win!” Trump wrote before the 2016 election.
When hip-hop legend Snoop Dogg released a music video that included footage of him pointing a prop gun that fired out a “BANG” sign at a Trump caricature, the president suggested it was a criminal offense.
Can’t leave out flag burners: “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag — if they do, there must be consequences — perhaps loss of citizenship or year in jail!” (A 1989 Supreme Court ruling in Texas v. Johnson upheld the constitutional right to burn the American flag.)
Treason is a favorite Trump charge, one he bandies about most readily, even if his concept of the crime stretches beyond the legal definition.
People who leak information? “Traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are!” Trump has tweeted.
FBI agent Peter Strzok? “This is the FBI we’re talking about — that is treason,” Trump told the Wall Street Journal. “That is a treasonous act. What he tweeted to his lover is a treasonous act.”
Chelsea Manning, the former U.S. Army soldier who passed information to WikiLeaks? “Ungrateful TRAITOR.”
Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl? “A dirty rotten traitor,” according to Trump.
Democrats who failed to applaud the president during the State of the Union? “Somebody said ‘treasonous.’ I mean, yeah, I guess, why not? Shall we call that treason?” Trump told a crowd in Cincinnati. “Why not? I mean, they certainly didn’t seem to love our country very much.”
When an anonymous official inside Trump’s own administration published an infamous New York Times opinion piece, Trump blasted out a one-word response: “TREASON?”
In a later interview with Fox News, the president suggested the paper itself had committed the crime by running the piece.
"Number one, the Times should never have done that,” he said. “What they’ve done, virtually it’s treason.”