Attorney General Jeff Sessions wants everyone to know that he does in fact know what due process is. Sessions retracted his apparent approval of "lock her up" chants Thursday, telling reporters he should have turned a recent incident with conservative youth into a teachable moment.
"Well, I met with a group of enthusiastic high school students and they spontaneously broke into that chant," Sessions told reporters at a press conference on Thursday when asked his response to those criticizing him for laughingly repeating a "lock her up" chant earlier this week. "I perhaps should have taken a moment to advise them on the things I mentioned today: you're presumed innocent until cases are made."
The attorney general was delivering a speech at a Turning Point USA's High School Leadership Summit in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday when attending high-school students broke into one of the Trump campaign's signature rallying cries: "Lock her up!" The chant, which was often heard at Trump rallies during the 2016 election, refers to a desire to imprison then-Trump rival Hillary Clinton.
"Lock her up," Sessions repeated Tuesday with a chuckle as the audience's chant gained momentum. "I heard that a long time over the last campaign."
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump promised voters he'd have his attorney general appoint a special prosecutor to investigate Clinton despite the FBI's conclusion that Clinton's use of a private email server did not amount to the intentional transmission or willful mishandling of classified information. Then-FBI Director James Comey ultimately did not recommend Clinton be pressed with criminal charges following a lengthy investigation.
While Trump appeared to back down from his vow to prosecute Clinton once in office, he's since issued contradictory statements on the matter. In November 2016, he told the New York Times he didn't intend to follow through on his promise to press for an investigation into his defeated Democratic rival. "I don't want to hurt the Clintons, I really don't," he said. "She went through a lot and suffered greatly in many different ways."
But in July 2017, the president criticized Sessions for being "weak" when it came to investigating Clinton. "Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!" the president tweeted.
Trump continued to frame Sessions as the obstacle hindering his campaign vow to "lock her up" roughly two months later. When cries of "lock her up" broke out at a campaign rally for Alabama Sen. Luther Strange in September, Trump told the crowd "You've got to speak to Jeff Sessions about that."
Facing increasing pressure from Trump, Sessions did appoint Justice Department prosecutors to weigh the need for a special counsel to investigate the Clinton Foundation in November of last year. Conservatives had alleged that donations to the Clinton Foundation were made in exchange for Clinton's support of a uranium deal. According to the New York Times, no special counsel has ever been appointed to head such an investigation.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees that an individual's life, liberty, or property cannot be taken away from them without fair and proper legal proceedings such as a trial, meaning it would be unconstitutional to simply "lock her up."