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Will President Trump Prosecute His Political Enemies? Q&A with Popehat's Ken White

Hopefully, federal "dysfunction and incompetence" will undermine any attempts at vengeance.

"The mechanisms are there [for Donald Trump to go after political enemies]," says Ken White. "But generally the system trends more towards dysfunction and incompetence than it does towards effective manipulation, and my hope is [he'll talk] big and ha[ve] big dreams [without] really accomplish[ing] anything."

White is an L.A.-based defense attorney, a former assistant U.S. Attorney (1995 to 2001), a Reason contributing editor, and the lead writer at the popular libertarian legal blog, Popehat. He talked with Nick Gillespie about what President Trump will mean for our federal criminal justice system.

Listen to the interview below, or better yet subscribe to our podcast at iTunes.

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  • SIV||

    Podcast? More like a cuckcast

  • kbolino||

    Christ almighty, give it a rest.

  • Aloisius Kohalich||

    So , when does The screaming stop

  • EDG reppin LBC||

    I thought this was schtick. The election is over. So is the schtick right?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I feel it needs repeating in this thread:

    To my fellow Muslim Americans worried about the Trump victory: Despite Hillary Clinton's best efforts, there are millions of gun owners willing to defend you against the tyranny of the Federal Government.

  • Heroic Mulatto||

  • ||

  • Heroic Mulatto||

    I don't think it works that way.

  • ||

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    Are these Delights all Ukrainian or am I allowed to fantasize that I actually have an opportunity here in the good ole US of A?

  • Aloisius Kohalich||

    Better defend them with pressure cookers and clockboy's clock.

  • pan fried wylie||

    clockboy's clock will knock yer block off. 5 times fast, without fucking up and saying "cock" instead of of "clock".

  • Suicidy||

    The Big Black Cock of Time?

  • Bubba Jones||

    Maybe.

    Would prefer that they do it themselves.

  • Jury Nullification||

    Diane Reynolds (Paul.)|11.9.16 @ 5:40PM

    Keep your BS feelings to yourself. I'm tired of feelings and especially when they are as empty as yours.

    Who have YOU ever defended against tyranny from the federal government or any government as a gun owner. How are you protecting your fellow Americans from mooslims?

    "To my fellow Muslim Americans..." Are you a mooslim yourself?

  • bacon-magic||

    Huh, Walter Block was right. *holds tear jar up to Nick

  • Chipper Morning Wood||

    Walter Block is an embarrassment to libertarianism. He now has only two choices. Start justifying away Trump's near-guaranteed bloating of the federal government or start apologizing for supporting him.

  • GOML!||

    "Hopefully" depends on your perspective. From mine, hopefully he does go after Her.

  • GOML!||

    He goes after her.

  • AlmightyJB||

    Her pussy?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    He's with Her?

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Rosie O'Donnell?

  • Agammamon||

    Her?

  • Hugh Akston||

    I'm sure that Egg is perfectly criminal, I just don't want them spending all of their money prosecuting her.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    Will he require prosecution of someone who willfully violated the law? Who cares if that person is a "political enemy?" Does that even matter at all if there is a legitimate case? Put her in front of a jury and let the process decide. This shouldn't even be a question if we believe that the law applies to all citizens regardless of power, wealth, or prestige.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Why would you believe the law applies to all citizens when the evidence clearly indicates that not to be the case?

  • Zero Sum Game||

    I propose that we pass a law to encapsulate the principle such that all citizens have access to it:

    After any citizen has made an announcement that he or she intends to run for the office of President of the United States, said citizen may not be charged with any crimes whatsoever. At the conclusion of the race, the winner as selected by the democratic process shall pardon any and all crimes committed by said citizen as a show of magnanimity and to bridge any divide which has formed between them.
  • Hugh Akston||

    I'm referring to the more general phenomenon where the law doesn't apply to people who are wealthy or connected enough to buy their way out of it, or are too poor to mount a proper defense against it. And how the laws themselves are so numerous and so vague that a motivated prosecutor and willing judge can punish anyone even for crimes they had no idea they committed. Or how cops use threats of long mandatory sentences to coerce people into plea deals for crimes they didn't commit. Or how the deference to law enforcement and fake CSI science lands people on death row for crimes which they are categorically innocent. And that's not even mentioning the people who are denied their day in court because they are shot down in the streets by occupying soldiers of the police state.

    I mean all of that is perfectly legal, so who cares if people are stripped of their property, liberty, and lives so long as procedures are followed and our heroes in blue black go home safe at night.

  • RBS||

    I voted for a guy for the Senate who characterized cops as "roving bands of street pirates."

  • The Immaculate Trouser||

    I sure wish things like "relative judgement" and "comparison" existed, so we could differentiate between being *closer* to equality under the law and farther from it.

    Maybe then we could tell whether a rich, powerful Presidential candidate being treated under the same rules is a move in the right direction or not.

    In the meantime, let's just settle for making a lazy equivalence between relatively sane treatments like the US justice system and, say, gulags under Stalin or religious courts in Saudi Arabia and call it all "inequality under the law" without differentiation.

  • Hugh Akston||

    I don't recall posting anything about gulags or Saudi Arabia. But the short version is that the law applies where and when cops and prosecutors decide it does, and they have incentives other than justice to consider.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    I think you missed some implied sarcasm. Think about the unintended consequences of my proposed law and you ought to be able to reject it out of hand.

  • Hugh Akston||

    No I got the sarcasm, but I don't want you to think that I'm saying that the law doesn't apply to Hillary the way it does to everyone else. I'm saying that the rule of law is an impossible myth that people really ought to stop believing.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Under your methodology, if you cannot attain 100% of Rule of Law then don't believe in it? I assume you mean don't try and live by Rule of Law either.

    Libertarians want as few laws as possible to run our Republic and every law needs to be applied evenly to every person in the USA. In other words: Rich people don't get special treatment. Poor people don't get special treatment. Elitists don't get special treatment.

    If you break the law and there is probable cause, you will be charged and get a jury trial. Equal protection of the law and under the law.

  • The Fusionist||

    "Put her in front of a jury and let the process decide."

    That ought to mean, in the first instance, a grand jury.

    I had a longer response but the squirrels ate it. Suffice to say it addressed all your objections.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    The squirrels are mighty hungry little fuckers today.

  • Ron||

    If they committed crimes then its his job to do that.

  • Suicidy||

    Yep. I hope Trump puts Hillary, Obama, his admin. and most of the DNC in prison for all their crimes. Wikileaks has been most illuminating of late.

  • chemjeff||

    Oh come on. Trump wasn't talking about investigating Clinton because she's a Democrat. Trump was talking about investigating Clinton because of her server/email issues. And this is coming from someone who didn't vote for him (or her).

  • The Hyperbole||

    Trump wasn't talking about investigating Clinton because he thinks she deserves it, he was saying it to get votes. He won, he no longer gives a rat's ass about investigating Hillary.

  • chemjeff||

    You are probably right. But even if he was lying, the rationale for his false statement was never about Clinton's political affiliation. It was always about her conduct.

  • ||

    Or maybe his advisers are telling him it wouldn't be a good move politically to do that, right now. Wait for her to step into another cesspool of corruption, because God knows she will, it's inevitable and will probably involve the Clinton Foundation. Then just instruct the new head of the FBI and the new AG to do their jobs.

    That's the way you do it. Trump doesn't get his hands dirty or look like an unhinged hot head, and Hillary still goes to the slammer. I mean really there is no way you go looking for something on the Clintons and you don't find it.

  • The Hyperbole||

    Wont happen, If she says anything nice about him, he'll sooner appoint her an ambassadorship than prosecute.

  • Suicidy||

    Fuck that. Why should that diseased cunt get a pass on a single fucking thing? We all know she is guilty of everything she's ever been accused of and so much more. So fucking prosecute her vile ass.

  • Ron||

    If they've committed crimes then its his job to go after them.

  • Illocust||

    Hopefully his administration will prosecute Clinton. It would go a long ways to restoring my faith in rule of law for the elite if such a blatant case actually saw the insides of a court room.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I like this Ken White fellow. He should start a blog.

  • Ken Shultz||

    I know John's a big fan.

  • John||

    Did Ken mention he is a first amendment lawyer? Ken can by shy about mentioning that, except when he is beginning every sentence with "as a first amendment lawyer..."

  • RBS||

    I should start doing that. "As a collections/domestic relations lawyer..."

  • Ken at Popehat||

    As a former federal prosecutor Ivy-educated lawfirm-partner First Amendment and criminal defense trial lawyer I see what you did there John.

  • John||

    I guess being a lawyer myself with two LLMs JAG, prosecutor, national security lawyer and a lot of other things, I just don't find being a lawyer or even an Ivy League lawyer that impressive.

    And you are dead wrong about slapp laws.

  • Pompeius the Quant Retard||

    Hey John maybe he needs to hear about the highly compelling Podesta circumstantial evidence.

  • Ken at Popehat||

    I didn't notice an appetite for irony on that list, John,

    I would enjoy a debate on SLAPP laws. So many ways I could be wrong.

  • Brochettaward||

    I bet you don't even have an actual Pope hat.

  • Pompeius the Quant Retard||

    Pretty big douche move to allude to pedigree.

  • Crusty Juggler||

    As someone with a Bachelor of Arts, I noticed that you two have learned nothing from Milton Berle: you are supposed to take out just enough to win.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    As someone who graduated from the school of hard knocks, I don't know what any of you are talking about.

    GO TRUMP!

  • Ken Shultz||

    As someone who's been calling for Hillary to go to be prosecuted pretty much daily since May of 2015 . . .

    http://www.motherjones.com/pol.....arms-deals

    . . . if I were Donald Trump, I'd just leave it be. I think the Clinton Foundation should be investigated. They were grooming Chelsea to both be on the Clinton Foundation board and run for Congress in the midterms--in order to provide leverage for more "donations" once Hillary was in office. So long as the plug's been pulled on that, just let it die.

    If they want to run Chelsea for Congress or Senator while she's still on the Clinton Foundation, then drain the swamp.

    James Comey's office should be investigated. He's brought disrepute to the FBI, and his entire office needs to be investigated. All communications between Comey and Department of Justice officials concerning Hillary's email need to become publicly available to restore America's confidence in the rule of law. And if Comey or Attorney General Loretta Lynch are found to have conspired to obstruct justice, then they either or both of them need to be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

  • ||

    Comey needs replaced. Put in a new AG and new head of the FBI and let them do their job. That is all.

  • ||

    And Hillary has to be punished for her crimes. Everyone else would be, she doesn't get a pass.

  • John||

    The people beneath her as well. And lets not forget Lois Lerner who has a contempt of Congress charge hanging over her that DOJ has refused to prosecute. And then there is Eric Holder who admitted to lying to Congress and the current head of the IRS who lied to Congress on multiple occasions.

  • The Fusionist||

    And the bald dude whose lies Snowden exposed.

  • Ted S.||

    Evan McMuffin?

  • Suicidy||

    But McMuffin is so savory and tasty!

  • Ken Shultz||

    I agree with all of that.

    And if I were Trump, I'd treat it like water under the bridge.

    All that stuff is so 2015.

    Trump has four years of hard work ahead of him.

    He should focus on getting us a good Supreme Court justice to replace Scalia, repealing ObamaCare, and getting rid of Dodd-Frank.

    His first day in office, he can undo a shitload of Obama's stupid executive orders, too.

    It's a cost/benefit thing moving forward. There's only so much time, energy, and political capital to spend, and when you invest that stuff, you gotta make it pay. The return on investment on prosecuting those old crooks is better spent doing something constructive.

    I still can't believe we're not here talking about how we're gonna try to stop President Hillary from stacking the Supreme Court and bringing us single payer.

  • Gray Ghost||

    I agree with all of that.

    And if I were Trump, I'd treat it like water under the bridge.


    Nope, not water under the bridge. Because his base will look at pictures showing Donald and Melania/Ivanka socializing with the Clintons, etc..., and say he's doing not for reasons of political prudence, but because they're his buds.

    You treat the CF/Clinton Global/influence peddling investigation exactly like you would any other federal fraud investigation where the dollar signs were two zeroes smaller: you perform whatever preliminary investigation you need to fix people's stories, go get a sealed search warrant, and then you show up with two or three panel trucks full of unsmiling men and women with OIG on their vests, ballistic helmets on their heads, and orders to immediately cart off everything computer, file, or anything else that might possibly be evidence. The same way the Govt' behaves when they serve a warrant for Medicare fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, securities fraud, or any other white collar crime.

    Then you take a look at the evidence, and see if it shows any crimes were committed within the statute of limitations. If so, you indict, with a Federal TM 167-or-so-count indictment, and start squeezing.

    There's more than enough that's been revealed already to send Hillary, Bill, and their co-conspirators---whatever side of the aisle they sit on---away for hundreds of months in Club Fed.

    Do so.

  • Gray Ghost||

    Or his base will figure out that "draining the swamp" was just more bullshit from a guy who has no shortage of it. Well, I guess it was going to be that or "the wall just got 10 feet higher" or "we're going to make great trade deals" as the bullshit that was going to disappoint Trump fans first.

    Anyone not think that, in the morass of Clinton Foundation books and papers, there isn't enough evidence of money laundering/campaign finance fraud/bribery to send at least a dozen members of Congress (again, both D and R) to the pen? Why let them skate?

  • Ken Shultz||

    If he goes after Hillary, Obama will pardon her. Obama may pardon her even if Trump doesn't go after her.

    Squandering political capital on something pointless shouldn't inspire confidence in a leader.

    Remember that time Obama warned Assad not to cross his red line?

    Do you think America would be better off as a nation if Obama had followed through on his threat?

    I don't.

    I'm glad Obama backed down. Syria is a clusterfuck, and if we ended up knee deep in that just so Obama could arrogantly say he was keeping his word--even if doing so wasn't in the best interests of American security? That would be a terrible thing to do.

    Trump going after Clinton is more or less the same way. Most Americans won't think more of him for being vindictive, Obama may pardon Hillary on his way out of office anyway, and the political capital Trump would need to spend to go after Hillary would be better spent doing something of benefit to the American people--like getting them to support repealing ObamaCare.

  • Wasteland Wanderer||

    If he goes after Hillary, Obama will pardon her. Obama may pardon her even if Trump doesn't go after her.

    Do you mean if Trump *promises* to go after her? Because Obama won't be in position to pardon her when Trump actually has the ability to go after her....

  • VG Zaytsev||

    If Obama pardons her she will not be able to "take the fifth" during an investigation. So ramp up,an investigation to expose the criminality underlying her private server and prosecute her for perjury when she inevitably lies to protect her reputation.

  • Tom Bombadil||

    "If Obama pardons her"

    Pardon her for what?
    Doesn't she need to be at least charged/indicted before she can be pardoned?

    That would require, in the next 2 months, that Obama instruct his DOJ to convene a Grand Jury and charge her, solely for the purpose of having a pretext to pardon her. Does that seem likely?

    Also, Obama is on record as saying that Hillary has done nothing wrong.

  • Gary T||

    I believe the executive can issue preemptive pardons, so that the target does not even get charged.

  • crufus||

    The president has absolute power to issue pardons, even if no crime has been charged.

    For example:
    "...Now, THEREFORE, I, GERALD R. FORD, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from January 20, 1969 through August 9,1974..."

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Not if Trump's administration waits until after January 20, 2017. Obama cannot pardon her if he is gone from the White House.

  • Suicidy||

    Why wouldn't he do it? The press will hate him, but the public will eat that sit up.

  • Zero Sum Game||

    I don't believe that he can be. FBI directors are appointed for ten year terms, probably to insulate them from frivolous removals for political reasons.

  • Johnny B||

    The FBI director serves at the pleasure of the president:

    "The Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is appointed by the President by and with the advice and consent of the Senate. The statutory basis for the present nomination and confirmation process was developed in 1968 and 1976, and has been used since the death of J. Edgar Hoover in 1972. Over this time, seven nominations have been confirmed and two have been withdrawn by the President before confirmation. The position of FBI Director has a fixed 10-year term, and the officeholder cannot be reappointed, unless Congress acts to allow a second appointment of the incumbent. There are no statutory conditions on the President's authority to remove the FBI Director. Since 1972, one Director has been removed by the President."

    https://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R41850.pdf

  • Zero Sum Game||

    Oh, lard, you jus' straight fucked now ain't you?

  • kbolino||

    Bill Clinton fired the (admittedly corrupt, albeit in a petty way by Clinton standards) FBI director, William Sessions, in 1993. No directory has served exactly 10 years; although, Comey's predecessor served more than 10 years thanks to a Congressional waiver.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    I still believe Comey was doing the best he could with a rotten situation. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, he knew actually prosecuting Hillary would "destabilize" the system, and the system must first be protected. On the other hand, if he didn't make it clear that he was looking into everything, including hundreds of thousands of emails that may have contained state department communications being auto-forwarded to a Toshiba laptop in the back seat of Anthony Weiner's SUV which was full of porn site malware, that he'd be accused of running interference for the Clinton political machine.

    On the third hand, if you don't want to be caught in these sticky political situations, quit seeking power at the federal level, because it's a cesspool and you can't wade into it without getting dirty.

  • Johnny B||

    He was forced to do an investigation with no subpoena power. That was his most important limitation, which is why he was handing out immunity to get computers. The second "done nothing wrong" was, however, after having subpoena power. So that one is more perplexing. But water under the bridge...

  • Jury Nullification||

    "But water under the bridge..."

    Now, would that be the bridge to nowhere or the bridge over troubled waters?

  • Juice||

  • Sir Digby Chicken Caesar||

    That is quite excellent.

  • Hayeksplosives||

    Literally laughing out loud. That is out-effing-standing!

  • Hayeksplosives||

    Literally laughing out loud. That is out-effing-standing!

  • Hayeksplosives||

    Literally laughing out loud. That is out-effing-standing!

  • Hayeksplosives||

    The squirrelzz approve also.

  • The Grinch||

    Prosecute her and commute her sentence if convicted. Ruin her reputation, what's left of it, and be magnanimous in the end. That wouldn't upset anybody would it?

  • wareagle||

    She lost, the worst thing possible to her.

  • Jury Nullification||

    "That wouldn't upset anybody would it?"

    It might upset the Coptic Christian who got sent to jail because Hiliary said his video caused the Benghazi attack.

    Send her to jail so she can get some street cred. She earned it the old fashioned way.

  • IceTrey||

    Hillary lost. Huh, maybe there aren't Illuminati.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Well, there is an illuminati, but it turns out they drive pickups, live in trailers and wear red hats that say "Make America Great Again".

  • Mr Lizard||

    My prediction: no-jail plea deals for like 3000 people. Then: go forth and sin no more bitches

  • Rhywun||

    We still have Chelsea waiting in the wings - you know it's coming.

  • Agammamon||

    Will President Trump Prosecute His Political Enemies?

    You know, Trump really doesn't have any 'political enemies'. Unless maybe there's a few people in NY/NJ who got in the way of his development plans.

    Someone running against you in an election is not exactly an enemy even if they're not an ally.

    He'll probably make more than a few political enemies in the next 4 years - we'll see how well Paul/Ryan/Amash stand up.

  • Migrant Log Chipper||

    Corpse-fucking a tread.......naughty TTUUULLLLLLPPPPPPPAAAAAAAA, naughty dog.

  • buybuydandavis||

    "Will President Trump Prosecute His Political Enemies? "

    Ed Krayewski is the only guy at Reason who should be allowed to write an article about Trump.

    Everyone else has #TrumpDerangementSyndrome

    Now Reason is standing up for a corrupt government kleptocrat to be above the law, just to stick it to Trump with some dishonest propaganda.

    The home of the Woodchipper Party has been reduced to advocating blanket immunity for a criminal government kleptocrats, because Trump.

    ENB had a headline about evil icky Trump offering a woman money for sex, when half her shtick is sex work legalization. Because Trump.

    SJ is a mental illness, and there are a lot of terminal cases on the Reason staff.

    Sad

    Ed's recent article is right on point. Trump wins because the Lying Media attacks Trump with such transparent dishonesty that any decent person finds themselves siding with Trump time and again.

  • Domestic Dissident||

    Yep. Ed is one of the very few real libertarians left at Reason. He goes after both sides with equal vigor.

    Gillespie, the mufaletta scumbagetta, and most of the rest of them are PFLs who voted for Hildog.

  • Rational Exuberance||

    Well, the people Obama and Clinton have persecuted through the IRS, the OCR, the EPA, and other federal agencies, will certainly breathe a sigh of relief now.

    Going legally after Hillary, however, wouldn't be vindictiveness. Legally, it would be quite justified, although it would probably be bad politics.

  • Lord Rollingpin||

    "The mechanisms are there [for Donald Trump to go after political enemies]," says Ken White.
    Obama used the IRS to go after Tea Party groups. So where do we go from here? Republicans play nice and there is no blow-back when Democrats use the system to persecute political opponents?

  • buybuydandavis||

    The right likes to play by the rules
    While the left plays by any means necessary

    That has given us a century of encroaching Leftist statism

    A few years of trump playing by any means necessary is the only possible way I see of getting the left to want to play by the rules again

    It probably won't work, but if the left never pays a price for their lawlessness, they will never give it up

    One-way ceasefire is surrender
    One-way rule of law is subjection

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