Former President Donald Trump said in 2016 that a president under indictment would “cripple the operations of our government” and create an “unprecedented constitutional crisis” – years before he himself was indicted on federal charges while running for a second term as president.
Trump made the comments nearly seven years ago about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“We could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial,” Trump said during a November 5, 2016, campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, reviewed by CNN’s KFile. “It would grind government to a halt.”
Just days earlier, on October 28, then-FBI director James Comey publicly announced they had reopened the investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information related to her use of a private email server during her tenure as secretary of state.
Now, Trump finds himself under the exact situation he repeatedly described after he was charged in early June with 37 federal counts related to retention of classified documents and conspiracy to obstruct justice.
A tentative trial date had been set for mid-August by the case’s judge, but it is likely to be pushed back. The special counsel’s office asked for a December trial. The flexibility of when the trial will begin leaves uncertainty if the case will conclude before the 2024 election.
But Trump, the current front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, will not be disqualified from the presidency even if convicted, and he told Politico in June that he won’t leave the presidential race if he is convicted of the charges.
At another rally on November 3, 2016, in Concord, North Carolina, Trump made similar comments.
“If she were to win, it would create an unprecedented Constitutional crisis that would cripple the operations of our government,” he said. “She is likely to be under investigation for many years, and also it will probably end up – in my opinion – in a criminal trial. I mean, you take a look. Who knows? But it certainly looks that way.”
“She has no right to be running, you know that,” Trump said. “No right.”
Trump added at a November 5, 2016, rally in Denver that as “the prime suspect in a far-reaching criminal investigation,” Clinton’s controversies would make it “virtually impossible for her to govern.”
The comments aren’t the only ones from Trump’s past campaigns that could have aged poorly with his legal troubles. In another comment, made when running for reelection, Trump acknowledged only the sitting president could reveal classified information.
CNN previously reported in an exclusively obtained audio recording that Trump said as president he could have declassified a document about plans to attack Iran that he was showing aides after leaving office, but recognized he could not do so now that he is no longer president.
“And you know the newspapers and the press and the fake news they went and said he just gave away classified information,” Trump said at a rally in Pennsylvania in September 2020 when discussing his conversations with author Bob Woodward on nuclear weapons. “First of all, I’m allowed to do it, I’m the President so I’m allowed to. I’m the one – I’m the only one that’s allowed.”
In September, CNN’s KFile reported that Trump previously called for lengthy jail sentences for those who mishandled classified information.