The morning after Donald Trump threatened to jail Hillary Clinton if elected president, the Republican nominee’s campaign manager tried to explain away his debate comment as a punchy line.
“In an offhand moment, he said she would be in jail if he became president. Does he stand by that this morning, that Hillary Clinton would be in jail if he were president?” Willie Geist, host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” asked Kellyanne Conway on Monday.
“That was a quip,” Conway replied. “And I saw in NBC’s own reporting, it was referred to as a ‘quip,’ so I’ll go with NBC on it.”
Conway went on to defend Trump’s promise to order the Department of Justice to investigate Clinton’s use of a private email server as secretary of state, calling it unfair that she operates under a “separate set of rules.”
“I think that’s Donald Trump channeling the frustration he hears from thousands of voters on the stump every day. They’re very frustrated that she has a different set of rules for her,” Conway said. “How can she not have faced any type of penalty for doing something where people who do far less have faced a serious penalty?”
Both Republican and Democratic pundits were quick to condemn Trump’s threat to jail his political opponent as dangerous and undemocratic.
Former Attorney General Eric Holder called Trump’s words a promise to “abuse the power of the office,” while the former White House press secretary under George W. Bush, Ari Fleischer, said “presidents don’t threaten prosecution of individuals.”
Trump’s surrogates were mostly happy to defend his comments, however.
Speaking to TPM in St. Louis after the debate wrapped, Trump spokesman Jason Miller said it was “very clear the laws have been broken here.” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) said having a special investigator look into Clinton’s email use, which a year-long FBI prove determined did not involve any criminal activity, “might be justified.”