While addressing a high school leadership summit in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions laughed as students broke into the “Lock her up!” chant usually reserved for Donald Trump rallies.
“Lock her up,” a smiling Sessions said as the anti-Hillary Clinton chant began at the conference, hosted by Turning Point USA, a conservative youth organization. “I heard that a long time over the last campaign.”
On the campaign trail, Donald Trump repeatedly called for Clinton to be prosecuted for her use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, and he continued to do so even after the FBI decided not to recommend criminal charges against her.
The “Lock her up!” refrain featured prominently at the 2016 Republican National Convention, where Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn infamously led the crowd in the chant during his convention speech. Flynn, who served as Trump’s national security advisor, was dismissed 24 days into the president’s term and later pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about his contacts with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
As president, Trump has continued to fume about the decision not to prosecute Clinton — often criticizing Sessions for not taking action against his former Democratic rival.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes,” Trump tweeted, for instance, in July 2017.
Trump has also taken his frustration with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing Russia investigation out on Sessions, who recused himself from the probe after it was revealed he had undisclosed meetings with the Russian ambassador. The president now says he regrets picking Sessions as the nation’s top law enforcement officer.
“The Russian Witch Hunt Hoax continues, all because Jeff Sessions didn’t tell me he was going to recuse himself,” Trump tweeted last month. “I would have quickly picked someone else. So much time and money wasted, so many lives ruined.”
The “Lock her up” chant came after Sessions bemoaned the “crackdown” on free speech on college campuses.
“Many political activists try to intimidate people into silence,” he said. “Rather than molding a generation of mature and well-informed adults, some schools are doing everything they can to create a generation of sanctimonious, sensitive, supercilious snowflakes.”
“I can tell this group isn’t going to have to have Play-Doh when you get attacked in college,” Sessions said shortly before the chants began. “I like this bunch, I gotta tell ya. You’re not going to be backing down.”
Sessions’s response to the high schoolers drew scorn from some critics, including Clinton’s former adviser, Peter Daou.
“Because it’s so funny to the U.S. Attorney General to baselessly imprison one of the most accomplished women in American history,” Daou tweeted. “These Republicans are not good people.”
Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., was a bit more blunt in his response.
“Jeff Sessions is a disgrace to the office he holds,” Cicilline tweeted.
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