A Case for Indicting a Sitting President
There is a very well-written 29-page memo the Department of Justice posted on October 2000 that clearly says that a sitting president cannot be indicted. If you want to read the whole thing, it’s right here. But let’s cut to the chase, it says that, “The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
Some might argue that it’s time to examine that under unusual circumstances, a sitting president should be able to be indicted. Within our legal system the only true remedy of dealing with an unsavory leader is impeachment. Anyone watching this slow-moving disruption of the norms of America with Donald Trump will agree that this president has created an “usual circumstance.”
The opinion memo from DOJ in 2000 has a funny reference to the concept of charging a sitting president but postponing a trial until he’s out of office with, “…there would be a Russian roulette aspect to…[it].” RUSSIA! RUSSIA! RUSSIA!
Another not so funny admission was that Justice thinks having 12 unelected jurors decide the fate of the President would be a dangerous precedent and alluded to the fact that such weighty matters would be outside the regular joe’s experience. In short, they are saying ordinary citizens are not smart enough to judge such complicated matters. Really? That’s how they kept the vote and being on juries from women for almost 150 years. Or were they being a bit truthful about the flaw in the system of a jury of your peers?
We certainly believe that no man or woman is above the law. Our founding fathers were smart men who understood the need to make sure the top executive of the nation was free from frivolous law suits or local laws that could thwart his ability to do the nations’ business. They also had to deal with the conflict between the person who runs the justice department (the President) having the power of executive privilege. You cannot be the defendant and judge in the same case.
The founding fathers were a group of rich landowners who believed, their class, would never let someone of such low values and character to ever land the job of President. They were idealistic and a bit naïve, but then, how could they have ever predicted how America would change or even, a Donald Trump.
With filings landing in the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russian intervention into our 2016 election and the proposed “political synergy” between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives, we are seeing more hints of obstructing the investigation. If these accusations are true, it seems the President of the United States was, at least, more involved than he has admitted. If you care about America and our Democratic process, then you should take notice that these accusations are coming from the Justice Department, not some left-wing conspirators.
The founders of this great land wanted the Congress to be the check and balance in all presidential matters and clearly stated that impeachment for “high crimes and misdemeanors” was the way to dispense with a bad guy in the White House. And this notion has been revealed in our history.
Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were all impeached by the US House of Representatives. Although Johnson missed being tossed out of office by only one vote. Bill Clinton’s impeachment verdict fell short by 22 votes. Nixon never made it to impeachment. His party convinced him to resign and walk away from all his illegal activities. Later, President Ford pardoned Nixon. Completing the invisible circle that people in high offices rarely, even if convicted, serve time.
We don’t want to ever think that the party in power could execute a coup to take the voter’s choice out of office. At the same time, the credibility of the entire justice system of America is diminished if the chief executive breaks the law and is not held accountable for his or her actions. That is why it’s called a Constitutional Crisis.
If the President breaks the law while in office, he can only be impeached, he cannot be indicted, arrested or stand trial. We get it. If Donald Trump knows that he will be indicted once he leaves office, he will simply do a deal with Pence to get a pardon. We have already seen this one played out. If a Democrat is elected President, then Trump, if found guilty could do some time. Elections do matter.
Not all is lost, in the memo released in 2000 it does confirm that the Chief Executive does have to cooperate with any investigation and must provide documents, so long as they don’t interfere with his busy schedule. He doesn’t have to go to any courtroom, but he must comply with any request for documents or information, so long as it doesn’t involve national security. That excuse has been used over years and it has not generally impressed the courts or judges. If you want to get into the weeds, look up US vs. Nixon, or Nixon vs. Fitzgerald, or Clinton vs. Jones.
In conclusion, there is no legal way a president can be indicted while in office. The Vice President and everyone else in government does not have that immunity. So, to all the Democrats and Never-Trump Republicans, the only way the presidency (the institution) can be protected is by Congress acting. YOU HAVE TO IMPEACH TRUMP before you can make him stand trial. And if Robert Mueller shows you the President did not protect America and violated his oath, you must IMPEACH.