There were plenty to pick from, but arguably the most shocking moment in the third presidential debate came when Donald Trump said he would jail Hillary Clinton if he were president.
About 20 minutes into the debate, Trump delivered a menacing threat to Clinton, saying: “If I win, I’m going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation, because there’s never been so many lies, so much deception.”
His promise to use the power of the president’s office to prosecute his chief political rival, to her face, was chilling – but could it actually happen?
Clinton has been under fire for months for choosing to use a private email server instead of a government account while she was secretary of state between 2009 and 2013. Although the FBI declined to pursue charges – twice – critics have continued to question whether she put highly important information about national security at risk.
And Trump wants her put behind bars for it.
But former Attorney General Eric Holder, has expressed doubt that Trump could find an attorney general to do his bidding, referencing a 1973 incident in which former President Richard Nixon saw two cabinet officials leave his administration in protest after he requested they fire the special prosecutor tasked with overseeing the Watergate investigation, CNN reported.
Legal experts have argued that, in a constitutional democracy born out of revolution against the absolute power of monarchs, the odds of Clinton being put in prison are ‘infinitesimally small’.
Henry Chambers, a professor at the University of Richmond’s school of law, told The Guardian:
He could start the ball rolling by suggesting to the Department of Justice that it start an investigation, but even then it’s kind of nuts. The idea that he could decide on his own, ‘I will put Hillary Clinton in jail,’ is bizarre squared. He himself would be threatened with impeachment.
Even the conservative-leaning Washington Examiner admitted the case was thin, saying ‘Government taxpayer-funded special prosecutors also are not usually used to launch investigations against former public officials — no matter how egregious the accusations against them are.’
So the possibility behind Trump’s harsh promise seems to be empty. Let’s hope his other unusual and controversial promises – like his Mexican border wall and the ban on Muslims – are just as impossible.