WASHINGTON // Donald Trump said he would jail opponent Hillary Clinton should he win the presidency.
The Republican presidential nominee made the threat – an unprecedented break with US political decorum – in the middle of the second presidential debate, held on Sunday in St Louis.
It came as the Democratic nominee said it was “awfully good that someone with the temperament of Donald Trump is not in charge of the law in our country”.
Mr Trump blasted back: “Because you’d be in jail.”
That drew applause in a town hall-style debate that was supposed to be free of audience participation.
A few moments earlier, Mr Trump had said he would instruct his attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the tens of thousands of emails that Mrs Clinton deleted when she was secretary of state.
After saying people across the country were “furious” with Mrs Clinton, Mr Trump said: “So we’re going to get a special prosecutor, and we’re going to look into it.” He added: “It’s a disgrace. And honestly, you ought to be ashamed of yourself.”
Mr Trump’s remarks drew widespread and bipartisan condemnation as un-American.
Former attorney general Eric Holder, who served under president Barack Obama, wrote on Twitter: “In the USA we do not threaten to jail political opponents. @realDonaldTrump said he would. He is promising to abuse the power of the office.”
Ari Fleischer, White House press secretary under George Bush and a supporter of Mr Trump, wrote: “Winning candidates don’t threaten to put opponents in jail. Presidents don’t threaten prosecution of individuals. Trump is wrong on this.”
Mr Trump’s jail line was one of the most-discussed debate moments on social media during the debate.
The FBI and the justice department have closed their investigations into Mrs Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state.
* Associated Press