Trump backtracks on pledge to prosecute Hillary Clinton

President-elect Donald Trump will not pursue an investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server, one of his top aides said on a morning talk show.

Cliff Owen/AP
Hillary Clinton addresses the Children's Defense Fund's Beat the Odds celebration at the Newseum in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

President-elect Donald Trump has backed away from his promise to bring criminal charges against his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton and her family’s foundation regarding her use of a private email server.

“I think when the president-elect, who’s also the head of your party, tells you before he’s even inaugurated that he doesn’t wish to pursue these charges, it sends a very strong message, tone and content [to Republicans]” his campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“Look, I think he’s thinking of many different things as he prepares to become the president of the United States, and things that sound like the campaign are not among them,” she added.

The shift is far from the first Mr. Trump has made since leaving behind the campaign trail. The president-elect has thus far proven himself to be more subdued than his brazen campaign rhetoric implied and open to certain policies, such as legal changes made by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which he previously promised to immediately repeal.

While FBI investigations have found no evidence of legal wrongdoing in Mrs. Clinton’s use of a private email server while she was secretary of State, Trump continuously decried the practice and claimed that the decision was more than a careless misstep on her part.

Trump’s own rhetoric on the topic has softened, with the candidate telling “60 Minutes,” that he was “going to think about it,” saying, “I don’t want to hurt them, I don’t want to hurt them. They’re, they’re good people.’’

That take posed a vast contrast to his determined promises to jail her, which prompted chants of “Lock her up!” and supporters wearing costumes of Clinton in jailbird stripes to appear at his rallies across the nation.

"After what she said about me today, her phony speech, that was a phony speech,” Trump said at a June rally in San Jose. “It was a Donald Trump hit job, I will say this: Hillary Clinton has to go to jail, ok? She has to go to jail, phony hit job. She's guilty as hell."

This morning's announcement has received criticism from both the left and right, with some Republicans calling the move a broken promise and Democrats accusing Trump of already violating the powers of the office by making the decision.

As the FBI and attorney general are typically tasked with launching investigations and bringing charges against individuals who may have engaged in illicit activity, Trump’s pledged involvement in the process was seen to many as an overstep of his power in the Oval Office that would be fueled by a personal vendetta against Clinton.

“The president-elect has demonstrated his complete lack of understanding of how the government makes these kinds of decisions,” Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told The Washington Post. “The attorney general answers to the president, but the department is supposed to be independent, especially when it comes to prosecutorial decisions. Any president, especially our next president, needs to both understand and respect that – or else they risk politicizing criminal prosecutions in ways that can be damaging.”

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