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Trump vows to prosecute rivals
Published on: Saturday, June 08, 2024
By: AFP
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Trump vows to prosecute rivals
Trump holds a big and a small box of tic-tac to illustrate inflation outcome during a town hall event at Dream City Church in Phoenix, Arizona.
WASHINGTON: Former President Donald J. Trump says he is prepared to prosecute his political enemies if he is elected this fall. Simply making those threats, legal experts said, does real damage to the rule of law.

But if he is already challenging bedrock norms about the justice system as a candidate, Trump, if he wins the presidency again, would gain immense authority to actually carry out the kinds of legal retribution he has been promoting.

The Justice Department is part of the executive branch, and he will be its boss. He will be able to tell its officials to investigate and prosecute his rivals, and Trump, who has made no secret of his desire to purge the federal bureaucracy of those found insufficiently loyal to his agenda, will be able to fire those who refuse.

Trump has long mused about sending Hillary Clinton to prison, and he returned to that theme on an interview.

“Wouldn’t it be terrible to throw the president’s wife and the former secretary of state, think of it, the former secretary of state, but the president’s wife, into jail?” Trump asked. 

“Wouldn’t that be a terrible thing? But they want to do it. It’s a terrible, terrible path that they’re leading us to. And it’s very possible that it’s going to have to happen to them.”

The president can certainly instruct his attorney general to investigate given individuals. 

In his 1960 presidential campaign, for instance, John F. Kennedy pledged to target Jimmy Hoffa, the labour leader. 

“In my judgement, an effective attorney general with the present laws that we now have on the books can remove Hoffa from office,” Kennedy said. 

Trump’s candidacy is becoming a referendum on what kind of justice system the country believes it has now and wants to have in the future.

“Trump ordering the prosecution of his opponents would be an epic abuse of power,” said Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice. 

“It would revert to a time before Watergate, when presidents used the F.B.I. and I.R.S. to go after perceived enemies and even just partisan opponents.”

Attitudes have changed since then, and they could change again.

“As a constitutional matter, the president has law enforcement discretion to prosecute anybody,” said David B. Rivkin Jr., who served as a lawyer in the administrations of President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. 

“You don’t get immunised because you are the enemy of a president.”

Trump said that he would reverse President Joe Biden’s order clamping down on illegal border crossings, in his first campaign event since becoming a convicted felon.

The expected Republican Party nominee also threatened to impose tariffs on countries that do not stem the flow of migrants into the United States, as he seeks to make electoral capital on an issue polls show resonates with voters.

Asked by an audience member at an event in the must-win state of Arizona what he would do to shut off the flow of people entering the US via the southern border—including migrants from China and the Middle East—Trump said he would use economic measures.

“We have tremendous economic power... if China or some other country is behaving badly, we have things called tariffs that are so severe,” he said.

“We are going to be so tough and if a country is not going to behave, we’re going to tariff the hell out of that country,” he added, without giving details on what size or kind of tariffs he would impose.

“On Day One of my administration, I will be rescinding Crooked Joe’s outrageous executive order,” he told the cheering crowd, blasting it—without evidence—as “pro-invasion, pro-child trafficking... pro-drug dealers.”

“And I will terminate every single open borders policy of the Biden administration.”

Biden won Arizona in 2020 by a wafer-thin 10,000 votes, and the state is expected to be crucial to both men’s chances of winning another four years in the White House.

Trump is expected to hold a rally in the swing state of Nevada on Sunday. 

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