U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said Tuesday he has no intention of pursuing more investigations of Democrat Hillary Clinton and her use of a private email server while she was the country’s top diplomat, despite his vow during their lengthy race for the White House to put her “in jail.”
“I think it would be very, very divisive for the country,” Trump told reporters and editors at The New York Times. “My inclination would be for whatever power I have on the matter is to say let’s go forward. This has been looked at for so long, ad nauseam.”
Pressed whether he had definitively ruled out prosecution of Clinton for her handling of national security material in her emails when she was secretary of state, Trump said, “It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about. I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t,” referring to his defeated presidential foe and her husband, former President Bill Clinton. “She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.”
Some U.S. investigators have sought to continue their probe of the Clintons’ foundation and allegations that foreign donors made large contributions to the international charity in hopes of currying favor with Clinton while she headed the U.S. State Department from 2009 to 2013. Trump said some people could argue that the foundation did “good work.”
In months of campaign appearances, the Republican Trump attacked Clinton’s handling of national security material in her emails, with his cheering supporters shouting, “Lock her up!” Trump repeatedly referred to her as “Crooked Hillary” and, at one point, said that if he were elected, he would name a special prosecutor to investigate her.
Hours before the president-elect offered his views at the newspaper, Kellyanne Conway, now an adviser to Trump after serving as his campaign manager, told the MSNBC network that “he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges.”
In her interview, however, Conway said, “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.”
A directive from Trump to U.S. law enforcement officials that he does not want to pursue another investigation of Clinton would be unusual. In the United States, federal law enforcement officials are considered to be independent of political interference from the White House.
Conway, however, said, “I think when the president-elect, who’s also the head of your party, tells you before he’s even inaugurated that he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone and content” to fellow Republicans.
“Look, I think he’s thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States,” she said, “and things that sound like the campaign are not among them.”
Clinton’s use of the private server based in her New York home played a central role in the election. Surveys showed that many voters doubted Clinton’s explanations about the tens of thousands of emails she sent or received while she was the country’s top diplomat and questioned her trustworthiness and honesty.
Clinton said she used the unsecured server on a single mobile device, rather than a more secure government server, for her convenience. Clinton said it was a mistake, but that she had not knowingly sent or received classified material in the emails.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation launched a lengthy investigation and found some classified material in the emails, but concluded in July that while Clinton was “extremely careless,” no criminal charges were warranted. Trump continued to attack Clinton’s handling of the national security documents.
Then, 11 days before the November 8 election, FBI chief James Comey announced that investigators were taking a new look at Clinton’s emails after several hundred thousand were found on the computer of the estranged husband of a key Clinton aide, Huma Abedin. Nine days later, however, just two days ahead of the election, Comey announced that investigators found nothing new, with many of the emails duplicates of the ones it had looked at months before.
After Trump’s stunning upset win over Clinton, she and many Democrats blamed Comey’s unexpected announcement reopening the FBI’s email investigation as playing a key role in her defeat, ahead of a nine-day period in which millions of Americans cast ballots in early-voting states.
U.S. political analysts, however, say Clinton’s failure to connect with white, working-class voters in the country’s industrial heartland played a more prominent role in the outcome. She lost several states that President Barack Obama claimed in both of his successful campaigns for the presidency.
Trump assumes power January 20 as Obama leaves office.