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Republicans can't help themselves, return to their Clinton obsession

When sitting U.S. senators cling to bogus claims to call for Hillary Clinton’s incarceration, it’s a real problem.


In Donald Trump’s first year as president, the Republican and his party couldn’t shake their preoccupation with Hillary Clinton. The then-president couldn’t stop talking and tweeting about his 2016 rival. His aides appeared fixated on Clinton. Congressional Republicans even launched investigations related to Clinton.

By October 2017, the former secretary of state joked, “It appears they don’t know I’m not president.”

The conditions persisted. In 2019, when Trump launched his re-election campaign, he excoriated Clinton seven times over the course of 30 minutes, apparently indifferent to the fact that she wasn’t running. As Election Day 2020 grew closer, the then-president called for Clinton’s incarceration, pushed then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to uncover and release Clinton emails, and lobbied then-Attorney General Bill Barr to prosecute Clinton for reasons unknown.

She wasn’t on the ballot. Trump seemed desperate to run against her anyway.

After Trump’s defeat, it seemed plausible that Trump and his followers would finally move on — if for no other reason than because they had fresh political targets, in the form a new Democratic president, a new Democratic vice president, a new Democratic Senate majority leader, et al. Clinton left office a decade ago, and it was finally time for obsessive GOP critics to find a new hobby.

Or so it seemed at the time.

Last month, conservative media outlets seemed overly eager to speculate about a national Clinton campaign in 2024 that will not exist. This month, Trump and his allies have embraced a new conspiracy theory, built around a highly dubious interpretation of a court filing from special counsel John Durham, that has pushed Republicans’ fixation to a new level of intensity.

Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn, for example, yesterday called for a new investigation into Clinton. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy made related comments a day earlier.

For Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, it’s apparently time to skip past talk of investigations and go right to rhetoric about putting the Democrat behind bars. Here’s the message the Missouri senator pushed on Fox News last night:

“What I think is happening now there is was collusion after all in the 2016 campaign. The collusion was between Hillary Clinton and some tech executives who did, in fact, spy on Donald Trump, who did access his email servers. And worse than that, who went on, according to special counsel, went on to try and infiltrate — that is, spy on — the executive office of the president of the United States. I mean, this is some crazy, crazy stuff that Hillary has been involved in and now it turns out the Clinton campaign was really just a criminal enterprise, which is what we’ve known all along. Somebody should go to jail for this, and I hope the special counsel is pretty soon going to be talking to Hillary Clinton.”

Hawley was so pleased with his on-air appearance that he promoted his comments via social media, publishing a tweet that read, “Someone should go to jail for this — and Hillary is a good place to start.”

The problem, of course, is with the “this.” As the senator really ought to know, there is no “this.”

In fact, I’ve tried to find a single thing Hawley said last night that was accurate — literally, anything at all — and I’ve come up empty. Clinton and “tech executives” did not access Trump’s email servers. What’s more, no one tried to “infiltrate” the office of the president, and that’s not even what Durham alleged.

I published a piece the other day on this misguided, manufactured “controversy,” but a Washington Post analysis this morning summarized what we know in a fairly tidy way:

The line from Clinton’s campaign to research looking at a limited set of data about Internet domain names is not brightly drawn by Durham or elsewhere. There was no accessing of email servers alleged anywhere. And while Durham is careful to point out that 1) the research evaluating possible connections to Russia included (legally acquired) data from the executive office and that 2) this led to a February 2017 meeting about the research, he does not allege that the data included in that research was collected from the Trump White House. In fact, lawyers for the research team itself told the New York Times that, to the best of their knowledge, it considered only executive-office data from 2016, before Trump was president.

Maybe Hawley and his cohorts don’t know any of these facts, and they’re just lashing out wildly out of habit. Maybe they do know the facts, and they’re just hoping to deceive the public — again out of habit.

Either way, the Republicans’ unhealthy obsession with Clinton appears to be getting worse for no reason.