ATKINSON, N.H. — Donald Trump is closing out his campaign with a lament that is also a warning, an “isn’t it a shame” sort of riff about the likelihood of Hillary Clinton, whether she’s elected president or not, remaining under federal investigation and likely winding up facing charges.
“Honestly, what a terrible mess,” Trump said in a soft, subdued tone as he took the stage before a crowd of 850 people inside a country club ballroom here. “All she had to do was follow the rules. And now she’s gonna run the country.”
Clinton, Trump predicted, will “be under investigation for years.” Her election, he continued, would lead to “an unprecedented constitutional crisis.”
Reminding voters about the first scandal-marred Clinton administration, Trump told voters that a second would offer more of the same. “We went through it with him and the impeachment and the lies,” he said. “Aren’t we tired of this stuff? She’s likely to be under investigation for a long time concluding with a criminal trial. Americans deserve a president who can get to work on Day One.”
This relatively decaffeinated version of Trump’s longstanding attack on Clinton — encouraging his supporters’ dreams of seeing the Democratic nominee sent to jail if not their full-throated chants of “Lock her up” — is the same one he’s been delivering all week, trying to avoid any unforced errors in the final days of a seemingly narrowing presidential campaign.
But Friday’s news cycle did not exactly dovetail neatly with Trump’s closing argument.
As Trump was promising to “drain the swamp” in Washington and portraying the federal government and Clinton as corrupt, two top allies of one of his most high-profile surrogates were convicted — and another went on television and appeared to claim that FBI contacts had tipped him off about its ongoing investigation of Clinton.
And the journalist on whose story Trump has based his recent claim that Clinton will be indicted went on television Friday morning to apologize, calling his report “a mistake.”
Just before Trump took the stage here, a jury found two senior aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie guilty on all nine counts they faced for their role in the Bridgegate scandal. It was the end of a trial in which both sides presented evidence that the governor himself was involved in the decision to close lanes on the George Washington Bridge to create traffic problems as political payback to the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee who’d crossed the governor.
Christie, who issued a brusque statement promising to set the record straight soon, is scheduled to campaign for Trump in New Hampshire this weekend. After being passed over to serve as Trump’s running mate, Christie was tasked with heading up Trump’s transition team.
Hours before that news broke, Rudy Giuliani, who has been Trump’s most vocal and ubiquitous surrogate over the final months of the campaign, appeared to claim in a TV interview that former FBI agents tipped him off about last Friday’s news that the organization was investigating new emails related to Clinton’s private server.
“I did nothing to get it out, I had no role in it,” Giuliani said during an appearance Friday morning on “Fox & Friends.” “Did I hear about it? You’re darn right I heard about it, and I can’t even repeat the language that I heard from the former FBI agents.”
Giuliani, whose ties to the agency date back decades, has long spoken about his closeness with the FBI, paraphrasing supposed conversations with agents and claiming insider knowledge. Two days before FBI Director James Comey’s letter informing Congress the agency was reviewing new evidence in the Clinton investigation, the former New York City mayor and U.S. attorney hinted that the campaign had “a couple of surprises left.” (Later on Friday, Giuliani walked back his comments, telling CNN that he didn’t actually have any advance knowledge of Comey’s letter).
Trump, who has harped on the FBI investigation ever since that news broke, continued to claim that the government is scouring 650,000 new emails, some of which, he stated without evidence, must contain damaging revelations (few of the emails are believed to have been sent by Clinton herself).
“The FBI agents say their investigation is likely to yield an indictment,” he said.
But less than 90 minutes before he took the stage, Bret Baier, the Fox News anchor who had made the claim Trump appeared to be referencing, went back on the air to admit that he was wrong Wednesday in claiming that the FBI probe would “continue likely to an indictment.”
Even after ABC, NBC and CNN presented reporting refuting Baier’s claim, Trump and conservative media outlets have been running with the assertion for the past two days. Baier, whose first mea culpa was to assert his comments had been merely “inartful,” took full ownership on Friday. “It was a mistake,” he said. “And for that, I’m sorry.”
“No one knows if there would or would not be an indictment, no matter how strong investigators feel their evidence is,” he said.
Three hours after his morning speech in New Hampshire, Trump, at his afternoon rally in Wilmington, Ohio, continued to lean on Baier’s report, adding one word of qualification to his claim of likely indictments.
“The FBI says their investigation is likely to yield — perhaps — an indictment,” Trump said to a crowd of 5,000 people gathered in late afternoon inside an airplane hangar.
Again, he asserted that among the new emails the FBI is examining are some “likely including classified information.”
Deviating from his script, Trump took his unsubstantiated hyperbole even further. “Some of those emails are so bad, they’re beyond classified,” he said.
Trump did not refer to any of Friday’s new developments with the exception of the monthly jobs report, which showed that 160,000 jobs were created in October and observers viewed as a sign that the economy continues to grow, albeit slowly.
“Nobody believes the numbers anyway,” Trump said. “The numbers they put out are phony.”
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