During a heated exchange Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump told the United States that he’ll jail opponent Hillary Clinton if he wins the presidency. It was one of the most dramatic moments in presidential debate history.
The GOP presidential nominee made the threat — an unprecedented break with U.S. political decorum — in the middle of the second presidential debate, held last night in St. Louis.
It came as the Democratic nominee said it is “awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country.”
Trump blasted back, “Because you’d be in jail.”
That drew applause in a town hall-style debate that was supposed to be free of audience participation.
A few moments earlier, Trump had said he’d instruct his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor who would investigate the tens of thousands of emails that Clinton deleted when she was secretary of state.
After saying people across the country were “furious” with Clinton, Trump said, “So we’re going to get a special prosecutor, and we’re going to look into it.” He added: “It’s a disgrace. And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
Clinton has faced scrutiny for her use of a private email server. After a yearlong investigation, FBI Director James Comey said Clinton and her staff were “extremely careless” in their handling of classified information, but he said there was “no intentional misconduct” and recommended that no criminal charges be brought. Trump has repeatedly attacked Clinton over the findings of the FBI probe.
While some Trump supporters dismissed the Republican nominee’s remarks as a joke, members of both parties said such behavior would blatantly contradict the ideals of a democratic government. The jailing of political opponents has long been decried as antidemocratic throughout the world.
“Winning candidates don’t threaten to put opponents in jail. Presidents don’t threaten prosecution of individuals. Trump is wrong on this,” said Ari Fleischer, former White House Press Secretary for President George W. Bush.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served under President Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter.
So @realDonaldTrump will ORDER his AG to take certain actions-When Nixon tried that his AG courageously resigned. Trump is dangerous/unfit
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) October 10, 2016
Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under George W. Bush and a supporter of Trump, wrote: “Winning candidates don’t threaten to put opponents in jail. Presidents don’t threaten prosecution of individuals. Trump is wrong on this.”
Trump’s “jail” line was one of the most-discussed debate moments on social media during the debate. Trump’s campaign seemed proud of the moment, tweeting a video clip of the exchange shortly afterward with the message, “@HillaryClinton is NOT above the law!” Tens of thousands of his followers retweeted and “liked” the tweet, with some calling it a “mic-drop” moment and the best line of the debate.
The FBI and the Justice Department have closed their investigations into Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
The comments were part of one the most interesting and combative debates in United States political history.
Some quotes used in this story came from Associated Press and CNN.