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Team Trump still eyeing 'payback' against his critics

Before the election, Donald Trump was privately musing about the ways in which he would "punish his enemies." Now he'll have a chance to do just that.
President-elect Donald Trump, walks with his wife Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty)
President-elect Donald Trump, walks with his wife Melania Trump, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell after a meeting at the U.S. Capitol Nov. 10, 2016 in Washington, DC.
The day before the election, the New York Times noted that Donald Trump was privately musing about the ways in which he would "punish his enemies" after the campaign, "including a threat to fund a 'super PAC' with vengeance as its core mission."And that was when Trump was convinced he would lose, at which point he'd have plenty of free time to plot and scheme against those who slighted him. Now that Americans actually elected the guy, Trump, if retribution remains his focus, will have the power of United States executive branch at his disposal.At Trump's election-night party last week, one of his prominent campaign aides, Omarosa Manigault, told the Independent Journal Review, "It's so great our enemies are making themselves clear so that when we get in to the White House, we know where we stand.... Mr. Trump has a long memory and we're keeping a list."Yes, that's right, Trump's staffer used "enemies" and "list" in the same thought.Politico reported the other day, meanwhile, that the president-elect's team has "payback" on its mind, "plotting revenge against those they believe slighted Trump -- and them."

Since Trump's shocking upset victory in Tuesday's presidential election, several people who worked on his team have discussed ways to punish Republicans who were hostile to the New York billionaire's anti-establishment campaign, including blocking them from administration or transition posts, or lucrative consulting work, according to a handful of people involved in the conversations.They say that Republicans who opposed -- or were seen as insufficiently supportive of -- Trump have had their entreaties rejected by people around the president-elect, some of whom have expressed wonderment that former bitter critics are now asking for jobs, lobbying leads and even Inauguration tickets.

One campaign operative told Politico, "My phone is ringing off the hook with people who were on the outs asking how they can get into Trump world. I'm telling them there is no f---ing way they're getting inside."None of this comes as too big of a surprise. Mother Jones' David Corn recently reported, "Revenge -- it's a big part of Trump's life.... Why all the insults, bullying, and grudge matches? There is a reason. Trump fervently believes in retaliation.... [He] has said numerous times that he is driven by revenge and that it is a basic tool to use in business. He is obsessed with payback. In speeches and public talks, Trump has repeatedly expressed his fondness for retribution."I wonder, though, whether this will extend to Hillary Clinton.For the most part, much of the "payback" chatter relates to Team Trump and the "Never Trump" contingent within the Republican Party, but does the president-elect's desire to "punish his enemies" extend to his former rival?CBS's Lesley Stahl asked Trump about this on "60 Minutes."

STAHL: Are you going to ask for a special prosecutor to investigate Hillary Clinton over her emails? And are you, as you had said to her face, going to try and put her in jail?TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you what I'm going to do, I'm going to think about it.

After some additional back and forth, he added, in reference to the Clintons, "I don't want to hurt them. I don't want to hurt them. They're, they're good people. I don't want to hurt them. And I will give you a very, very good and definitive answer the next time we do 60 Minutes together."Watch this space.Postscript: I'd be remiss if I neglected to mention this New York Times piece published over the weekend.

Chants of "lock her up" became a frequent rallying cry at Trump campaign events, and Mr. Trump told Mrs. Clinton at the second presidential debate that if elected, he would instruct his attorney general "to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation because there has never been so many lies, so much deception."If he were president, he told her, "you'd be in jail." That threat unnerved both Republican and Democratic legal analysts.When Mr. Obama took office, he and his first attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., also faced a decision over whether to investigate the previous administration.

This comparison is bizarre. The evidence of the Bush/Cheney administration breaking the law by embracing torture was very strong; the evidence related to Hillary Clinton's email server management has already been scrutinized by the FBI, which saw no need to pursue charges. When Obama took office, the case against the previous administration remained an open question; as Trump takes office, Clinton's email server is a five-year-old issue that's already been resolved.Similarly, for the Times to equate alleged war crimes with clumsy I.T. practices is plainly irresponsible.