“Lock her up!” the crowd at President Donald Trump’s campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, on Thursday night chanted. “You should lock her up, I’ll tell you,” Trump agreed.
The “her” is Hillary Clinton. The crime for which the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee should allegedly be imprisoned isn’t clear. But the chant has become a regular part of the circus-like atmosphere at Trump rallies, a sort of calling card for the movement.
Here’s something else that happened on Thursday night: The Trump Justice Department closed its 2-year long probe into Clinton’s business dealings – including whether the Clinton Foundation received special treatment during the former first lady’s time as Secretary of State under President Barack Obama. That includes an allegation made by Trump (and some other conservatives) that Clinton had somehow steered a uranium deal to the Russians after a donation to the Clinton Foundation.
“Remember that Hillary Clinton gave Russia 20 percent of American uranium and, you know, she was paid a fortune,” Trump said on the campaign trail in October 2016. “You know, they got a tremendous amount of money.”
That wasn’t true then. And now an investigation authorized by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to look into potential wrongdoing by Clinton has turned up a total of zero wrongdoing of any sort by either Hillary or Bill Clinton – or anyone associated with the Clinton Foundation.
Now, contrast that with another multi-year probe originating in the Justice Department: Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. That inquiry led to 199 criminal counts against 37 people and entities. Seven people pleaded guilty; six were sentenced to prison. And Mueller concluded that not only had Russia engaged in a deep and broad effort to influence the election to help Trump and hurt Clinton but also that Trump himself had engaged in a series of behaviors during the investigation that could have been construed as obstructive.
Trump – and his allies – regularly dismiss the Mueller probe as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax.” So what will they say about this probe into Clinton’s business dealings that turned up the equivalent of the contents of Al Capone’s secret vault?
The answer, of course, is that Trump will say nothing about the lack of findings from the probe. And his supporters will continue to chant to lock Clinton up despite the fact that the agency within the government that would do the actual locking up has made clear there is no locking-up crime (or any wrongdoing of any sort) here.
But, simply because Trump won’t acknowledge that he spent years making the case – with scant evidence – that Clinton was somehow using her official office to feather her own nest doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take note of it.
Because, well, we live in a country where facts should trump – ahem – spin. Where simply making totally unfounded claims is either not allowed or punished. Where truth, you know, matters.
And what’s abundantly clear in the Justice Department’s decision to close the probe quietly and with no charges filed is this: Trump made up a series of allegations that Clinton had abused her office as Secretary of State for personal gain. We shouldn’t be surprised by that fact. But we shouldn’t just let it go without taking note of it either.