The Texas Tornado, Mark Bennett made a sadly ironic, yet funny, twit: Today’s Twitter Instant Law Degree Specialty is in criminal-defense ethics. The renewed attacks on Hillary Clinton (as well as Tim Kaine) for having defended the accused are making their rounds again, being argued as if there was any issue of impropriety involved. There’s not. There is no legitimate argument on this issue.
For some time, Hillary Clinton’s critics have been citing her defense of a 1975 rape case to attack her, and her defenders have been absolving her of any blame. Kathy Shelton — the victim1 in the case — has openly condemned Clinton and asserted that Clinton gratuitously attacked her, and others have criticized Clinton’s description of the case from a recorded interview in the 1980s. The criticisms are (mostly) wrong and the defenses are (mostly) right.
You can question Clinton’s post-representation demeanor, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing, to question about her representation of her client. But we’ve been over this many times before. It’s a “tried and true” weapon in politics that relies on ignorance.
But, but, but you want Trump to win? That’s fine. There are plenty of arguments you can make that don’t require reliance on something so legally wrong. Your hatred of Clinton is not an excuse to make people stupider by relying on a flagrantly misguided argument. Just because people are sufficiently ignorant that they will buy that argument isn’t a reason to feed stupidity.
But then, the other team isn’t above playing its own game of “make people stupider about the law,” as otherwise smart people like Ari Melber, or people on big soapboxes like Paul Krugman, have pounded the claim that Trump has “pledged” to put Clinton in jail.
Donald Trump’s debate-night vow to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton’s email setup and put her “in jail” provoked a sharp blowback from former U.S. prosecutors, who said Trump’s view of the Justice Department serving the whims of the president is antithetical to the American system.
While presidents appoint the attorney general, they do not make decisions on whom to prosecute for crimes — and were Trump to do so, prosecutors warned, he would spark a constitutional crisis similar to that of the “Saturday Night Massacre” in the Nixon administration. In that case, Nixon attempted to fire the prosecutor investigating the Watergate scandal, and the top two Justice Department officials resigned on the spot.
That’s not what Trump said. That’s not what Trump meant. And it’s inconceivable that Josh Gerstein is so myopic that he doesn’t know it. There’s damn good reason to believe that had Clinton been anyone else, she would have been prosecuted and, if convicted, sentenced to prison. Lesser government employees have enjoyed a vacation at Club Fed for lesser recklessness. And had there been an independent prosecutor, that might well have been the outcome.
Trump wasn’t being a dictator, claiming the authority to jail his political opponent. Get a grip, no matter how much you hate Trump. Hanlon’s Razor still applies. Try deleting stuff from your computer while under congressional subpoena and see how it works out for you. Clinton did what she did, which may be totally inadequate for you to support her opponent or condemn her under the circumstances, but unless you’re of the view that important government officials aren’t held to the same law as the rest of us, efforts to contort Trump’s point into some Machiavellian ploy are ridiculous.
“For Donald Trump to say he will have a special prosecutor appointed and to have tried and convicted her already and say she’d go to jail is wholly inappropriate and the kind of talk more befitting a Third World country than it is our democracy,” said Paul Charlton, who spent a decade as a federal prosecutor before serving as U.S. attorney for Arizona under President George W. Bush.
Added Charlton: “The Department of Justice isn’t a political tool and it ought not to be employed that way.”
Damn right, it’s not. And that’s what makes denial of the abuse of law, of the prosecutorial power, as wrong for one team as it is for the other. Did the IRS not target conservative groups to eliminate their tax exempt status? But what about the claim that the Democratic Party platform calls for the prosecution of “climate deniers”? This is the plank:
All corporations owe it to their shareholders to fully analyze and disclose the risks they face, including climate risk. Those who fail to do so should be held accountable. Democrats also respectfully request the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of corporate fraud on the part of fossil fuel companies accused of misleading shareholders and the public on the scientific reality of climate change.
Not exactly the same as calling for a federal investigation of climate deniers? And yet, the same voices are shrieking about Trump “vowing” to imprison Clinton? Nuance for me, but not for thee?
Watching Rachel Maddow last night, dripping with smug self-righteousness as she ridiculed one candidate with puny and silly claims that mirrored the depth of thought and sincerity of Sean Hannity, it occurred to me that everyone has abandoned serious and mature thought in favor of throwing whatever feces is available. If that’s all we’ve got left, it could well explain why the two major parties proffer the two worst candidates imaginable. So be it. We get the government we deserve.
But don’t promote legal ignorance in furtherance of your cause. The campaign will be over in a month, and someone will win and someone will not. But the stupid you use in furtherance of your favorite candidate today will be perpetuated long after we’ve moved on to the next disaster. People, including people running for high office, are already clueless as to the law, despite their having graduated from Twitter Law School. Instead of playing the stupidity for your favorite candidate, why not argue real issues and stop perpetuating public ignorance about the law? Must everything about this campaign devolve to its nadir?