NYT: Donald Trump Drops Threat of New Hillary Clinton Investigation

Originally posted at The New York Times.

President-elect Donald J. Trump repeatedly called Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary,” and many of his fans chanted over and over again at his campaign rallies: “Lock her up!”

But on Tuesday, Mr. Trump essentially said never mind, signaling that he has no intention of directing investigations into his former rival’s use of a private email server or the financial operations at the Clinton family’s global foundation.

“I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t,’’ Mr. Trump said during a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times. “She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways, and I am not looking to hurt them at all. The campaign was vicious.”

It was the latest evidence that the president-elect is willing to retreat from strong positions expressed in the most strident tones during his campaign for the White House, and a particularly striking turnabout on an issue that dogged Mrs. Clinton’s campaign, which she blames for her loss to Mr. Trump.

Instead, Mr. Trump said he wanted to “move forward” after the divisive campaign. While he said that “we’ll have people that do things,” perhaps a reference to the F.B.I. or others who might call for an investigation, the president-elect made clear he would not seek to pursue an investigation himself nor make it a priority when he assumes office.

“It’s not something that I feel very strongly about,” Mr. Trump said, unlike health care or immigration. “This has been a very painful period of time.”

The decision may help Mr. Trump focus on his agenda once he moves into the Oval Office in January, without the potential distraction of an unprecedented legal inquiry by a president against his rival.

But it could deeply disappoint many of the voters whose anger against Mrs. Clinton he helped stoke throughout a bitter campaign. During their second debate, Mr. Trump turned to Mrs. Clinton and vowed, “If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there’s never been so many lies, so much deception.”

A White House directive to close an F.B.I. criminal investigation would be highly unusual. The bureau and the Justice Department are supposed to conduct investigations free from political influence. There are instances when the White House does have a say in investigations, but they generally involve national security matters such as the arrest and capture of terrorism suspects overseas or the indictment of Chinese hackers. Those are decisions that could have global ramifications.

“It does seem like an extraordinary breach of protocol for him to get involved in that decision,” said Glen A. Kopp, a former federal prosecutor in New York. “I know of no recent circumstances when the president ordered an attorney general not to pursue a criminal matter.”

The new president’s decision is likely to frustrate investigators at the F.B.I., who are fiercely protective of their independence to follow the facts that they uncover. A declaration from Mr. Trump that he wanted inquiries about Mrs. Clinton to stop could be seen as unwarranted presidential meddling into an investigation.

Although the email investigation is closed, the F.B.I. still has an open inquiry into the Clinton Foundation. That inquiry began after the 2015 publication of the book “Clinton Cash,” which asserted that some foreign entities gave money to the foundation in return for State Department favors when Mrs. Clinton was in office. The Clintons have denied those assertions.

If, as president, Mr. Trump ordered the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to close the inquiry, Mr. Comey could choose to rebuff him. To insulate F.B.I. directors from political pressure, they are given a 10-year term. The president can fire a director for cause, as President Bill Clinton did in 1993 after a Department of Justice investigation uncovered ethical abuses by the F.B.I. director William S. Sessions.

Word of Mr. Trump’s intentions regarding Mrs. Clinton came as the president-elect began another day of interviewing potential cabinet officials. In an early-morning post on Twitter, Mr. Trump said that “great meetings will take place today at Trump Tower concerning the formation of the people who will run our government for the next 8 years,” apparently assuming he will serve two terms.

People close to the transition said Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City who had been a leading candidate to be secretary of state, is now in the running to become the country’s director of national intelligence. That position would put him in charge of coordinating the various military and civilian intelligence-gathering operations.

Read more at The New York Times.

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