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Guest Editorial: Trump shouldn't pursue Clinton

History has been kind to President Gerald Ford's pardon of President Richard Nixon, which happened only a month after Nixon resigned from the presidency.

That was not true at the time —1974. Nor was it true two years later, when the the pardon played a big role in Ford's losing to Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Ford's clemency was a "profoundly unwise, divisive and unjust act" that shattered the new president's "credibility as a man of judgment, candor and competence," the New York Times editorialized after the pardon.

But as mentioned, history has been kind. The pardon did just what Ford hoped it would do: spare America the divisive trauma that would have resulted from prosecuting the former president.

That's the pattern Donald Trump should remember as he considers Hillary Clinton's case.

Especially now that Trump is starting to settle the lawsuits that had been brought against himself and his companies. The president-elect knows that those lawsuits have soared in importance since Election Day — and because of their potential to drown out any policy debates, they threaten his ability to pass his agenda.

He must resolve them as quickly as possible.

So, should he pardon Clinton?

Here's a more moderate move that would have the same net effect: He should refrain from appointing a special prosecutor, even though he promised during the campaign to appoint one.

The FBI and the Justice Department already have said they'll not prosecute. So if Trump forces them so reverse course, he'll be using his power as president to pursue the other party's nominee. That's not how we want our presidents to act.

And appointing a special prosecutor would be especially inappropriate. For as others have pointed out, special prosecutors are meant to impartially investigate members of the president's own executive branch, not political foes.

"The jailing of political opponents is a feature of repressive dictatorships, not vibrant democracies," a writer in The Atlantic magazine has noted.

Far better for Trump to say that out of respect for the FBI, the Democratic Party, America's political process and Hillary Clinton herself, he'll not demand an investigation into Clinton's activities. That way, the new president can put the campaign behind us and get to work.

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