President Donald Trump -- whose rallies are still punctuated with "lock her up" chants" -- may face turnabout from his Democratic rivals.
Some Democratic candidates are openly threatening Trump with prosecution once he's out of office, and those taunts are alarming to some law enforcement veterans, reported Politico.
“Presidents aren’t supposed to suggest there be investigations or prosecutions of particular people, let alone their political rivals,” said Matt Axelrod, a former Justice Department senior official under Obama. “President Trump has flagrantly and repeatedly violated that norm, but that doesn’t mean the norm has been obliterated.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said earlier this month that she preferred prosecution to impeachment, and she was soon joined by Democratic hopefuls Beto O'Rourke, Sen. Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg in recommending possible prosecution for Trump once he leaves the White House.
Axelrod and other law enforcement veterans feared those political appeals could undermine the Justice Department's impartiality.
“It simply is not the president's job to tell DOJ who to charge or with what crimes, and it's inappropriate and potentially dangerous for any president do so, in any context,” said Elie Hoenig, a CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor from New York.
The prosecution of a deeply unpopular president who has so far escaped consequences for Russian election interference and possible obstruction might prove irresistible in a crowded Democratic field, according to a former aide to the current frontrunner.
“As the stakes get higher for the Democratic field and the nation, the incentives for many candidates is to up the rhetoric to woo the base, draw attention and win primary voters, debates and delegates,” said Scott Mulhauser, a former aide to Vice President Joe Biden. “Where this all lands, who will go farthest and what gets proposed next is anyone's guess, so each candidate has to sort through the dumpster fire of news every day, hoping their responses and their path to victory are the winning ones.”
However, prosecuting a former president -- even Trump, who has called for prosecutions and even executions of his political enemies -- could carry immense political risks.
“You can see a case where an incoming [Democratic] president might not want a prosecution of Trump. It has the ability to blot out your entire agenda,” said Matthew Miller, a former Justice Department spokesman under Obama.
"It is too much to put the country through,” Miller added. “But such is life. People should just be happy he’s gone from the presidency at that point.”