On the 2016 campaign trail, Trump repeatedly led his supporters in chants of "Lock her up!" at his rallies. Trump told voters that his opponent in the presidential race, Hillary Clinton, could not be trusted, mostly for her use of a private email server while serving as secretary of state.
In a presidential debate with Clinton in October Trump said, “I’ll tell you what. I didn’t think I’d say this, but I’m going to say it, and I hate to say it. But if I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation."
Once Trump took office, though, he toned down his rhetoric and suggested he would not seek to prosecute Clinton. That is, until recently.
Trump has since been calling for the Justice Department to look into Clinton’s email server, donations to the Clinton Foundation, and the sale of U.S. mines to a company called Uranium One.
In a Nov. 3 radio interview on "The Larry O’Connor Show," Trump said, "The saddest thing is, because I am the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kind of things I would love to be doing and I am very frustrated by it."
And more yet, Trump ramped up tweets on the subject writing, “At some point the Justice Department, and the FBI, must do what is right and proper. The American public deserves it!”
Repeated pressure from a sitting president on the traditionally apolitical Justice Department seems unconventional. Is it? How much can and should a president influence the Justice Department when it comes to criminal investigations?
On this week’s episode of "Can He Do That?" Washington Post national security reporter Devlin Barrett guides us through the latest news. The Post’s fact checker Glenn Kessler explains the complicated details of Uranium One deal. Plus, Peter R. Zeidenberg, who served as deputy special counsel in the probe of former White House aide Lewis “Scooter’’ Libby, explains the limitations of presidential influence on criminal prosecutions.
Listen to the full episode below.
Each week, “Can He Do That?” examines the powers and limitations of the American presidency, focusing on one area where President Trump is seemingly breaking precedent. We answer the critical questions about what today’s news means for the future of the highest office in the nation.