News that Trump has no plans to prosecute Clinton, his Democratic rival in the presidential election, first arrived via spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s former campaign manager, during an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday morning. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a Trump surrogate, backed up Conway, telling CNN, “He made the choice to unite the nation.”
Trump himself confirmed later on Tuesday that he had sidelined efforts to prosecute Clinton, who has not been charged with any crimes, in an interview with the New York Times. When asked whether the option to prosecute Clinton had been entirely taken off the table, Trump said “no,” but added that it wasn’t a priority and would be counterproductive.
“I want to move forward,” Trump said. “I don’t want to move back. I don’t want to hurt the Clintons, I really don’t. She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways.”
Trump is pressed if he has definitively ruled out prosecuting Hillary Clinton. “It’s just not something that I feel very strongly about."
— Michael M. Grynbaum (@grynbaum) November 22, 2016
Trump repeatedly stoked crowds at campaign rallies with promises to charge and prosecute Clinton for a range of what Trump painted as crimes, from her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state to the dealings of the Clinton Foundation. “Lock her up!” became a ubiquitous battle cry at Trump rallies, where Trump demanded that Clinton was receiving special treatment from law enforcement. And during the second presidential debate in October, Trump said he planned to “instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation.”
Even before Trump’s Times interview, readers at Breitbart News—a publication co-founded by Trump’s chief strategist, Steve Bannon, that led cheerleading efforts for Trump throughout the 2016 election—began to freak out.
At least one commenter removed “deplorable”—a nickname Trump supporters gave themselves after Clinton called half of Trump’s base a “basket of deplorables”—from his screen name and replaced it with “ExTrumpVoter.”
Thousands of comments echoing similar sentiments poured in on Breitbart articles about the unlikely prosecution of Clinton, even after the publication removed “broken promise” from its headline about Conway’s comments.
Trump supporters’ reactions carried over to Twitter, where they lashed out at the prospect of the president-elect ditching the prosecution vow.
We thought NOBODY was above the law! YOU TOLD US THAT!
Dropping Clinton investigation is BULLSHIT!!!
— Wool Chuckerly (@TaveresQuixote) November 22, 2016
@washingtonpost Did Killary made a deal with Trump? Like she promises to give back Clinton Foundation $ and no nude pics?
— Latarian Hoöd-Rat Orwell (@Gordie_Orwell) November 22, 2016
Of course, it is still possible that Trump will instruct the Department of Justice to pursue a case against Clinton. If not, well, Trump supporters may soon learn a lesson Clinton voters figured out a long time ago: You can’t win ’em all.