A GOP senator used a bit of alternative history to paint the Justice Department’s decision to prosecute Donald Trump as improper and politically motivated on Sunday.
Ron Johnson was speaking on Fox News’s Sunday Morning Futures with host Maria Bartiromo when he made the claim that the twice-impeached former Republican president had, in fact, decided against directing the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton, the opponent he famously vowed to “lock up” countless times on the campaign trail.
“[President Gerald] Ford decided it was best for America to not pursue prosecution against [President Richard] Nixon. President Trump pretty much made the same decision, decided not to pursue any kind of prosecution of Hillary Clinton,” said Mr Johnson.
“Joe Biden could have made the same decision. He didn’t,” added the senator.
There were a couple of important issues with Mr Johnson’s assertion, however. Number one, Mr Ford did not direct the Justice Department to end a criminal investigation into his predecessor; instead, he pardoned Mr Nixon for any crimes he committed while in office, making a prosecution moot.
Mr Trump hardly extended that same gesture to Ms Clinton. In fact, the Department of Justice closed the investigation into the Democratic secretary of State on two separate occasions, both before Mr Trump ever took office. The final end to that probe occurred two days before Mr Trump’s 2016 election victory, after the FBI had made the controversial decision to reopen the investigation with just days to go in the race.
Mr Johnson’s apparent assertion that Mr Biden should consider pardoning Mr Trump for crimes he may have committed is the latest in an emerging line of half-hearted defences of the former president by Republicans aligned with the party’s establishment. Others, like Ohio’s new senator, JD Vance, have rejected the idea that any crimes could have been committed at all.
Those more forceful arguments align more closely with the former president’s own; Mr Trump has loudly insisted that he is not guilty of the numerous allegations levied against him in the DoJ’s indictment, including witness tampering and violations of the Espionage Act.
He also faces a separate set of criminal charges in New York stemming from a scheme to pay hush money to an adult film star, Stormy Daniels. Mr Trump has pleaded not guilty in that case.
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