Is Donald Trump Above Indictment?

If Special Counsel Robert Mueller finds evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Donald Trump, can Trump be indicted? His supporters, including Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, emphatically say, “No.” Many of Trump’s opponents say a confident “Yes.” The more accurate answer to whether Trump could be indicted lies somewhere in between.

Since 1973, according to Warren Richey of the Christian Science Monitor, “The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has maintained a policy that a sitting president may not be prosecuted or indicted.”

But this does not mean that the president is above the law. Most people are aware that when a president is found guilty of serious wrongdoing or commits a breach of public trust, the Constitutional remedy would be impeachment by the House of Representatives. Impeachment is akin to indictment, and would be the first step in the process of removal from office, which could then lead to criminal prosecution. Though impeachment is akin to indictment, we’ve learned from the Clinton years that impeachment does not necessarily mean removal from office.

Following impeachment by the House, (and still prior to removal from office), the next step would be a conviction by the Senate. Here’s what the U.S. Constitution says about impeachment:

“Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law.” (U.S. Constitution, Article 1, Section 3, Clause 7)

One could interpret the above clause this way: Impeachment does not go beyond removal from office and disqualification from holding any future public office. But if the president is impeached (by the House), convicted (by the Senate), and removed from the office of the Presidency, he or she could then be indicted, stand trial, and receive punishment in a regular court of law.

During the Clinton administration, the policy that a sitting president could not be indicted or prosecuted was reaffirmed, with this statement: “The policy seeks to insulate the nation’s chief executive from prosecutorial pressures that would ‘impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.’”

It’s true that we would not want a president, perhaps especially Donald Trump, to be distracted by the pressures of an indictment or a prosecution. This could place Americans at peril and jeopardize many aspects of our government’s workings.

On the other hand, if a president were found guilty of wrongdoing or of breaching public trust, would we really want that president to continue his or her duties as our leader? This answer is undoubtedly not clear-cut; for those who would support Donald Trump’s indictment, the answer is a simple “No.” But for those who support Trump, even an indictment and subsequent prosecution would likely not be enough to deter their backing.

Rudy Giuliani says Mueller won’t indict Trump | Fox Business [2018-05-16]

Senator: Giuliani is wrong. Trump can be indicted. | CNN [2018-05-16]

Will Trump Take Down Robert Mueller?

As Special Counsel Robert Mueller continues with his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, Donald Trump appears to be stepping up his resolve to stop him. Trump continues to deny it, yet it’s clear that he and those close to him have discussed it. White House Communications Director Sarah Sanders hinted as much by saying, when asked, that Trump had been advised that he did have the power to fire Robert Mueller.

Trump does not have the power to fire Robert Mueller, however, and only one person – Mueller’s boss, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein – does. It seems likely, however, that Rosenstein would refuse to do so. But saying “no” to the president would set Rosenstein up nicely to be fired. In turn, that would leave a vacancy that Trump could conveniently fill with someone who is willing to fire or at least put more restrictions on Robert Mueller.

Many say that even if Robert Mueller is fired or limited, it won’t impede the Russia investigation, because the people at the Justice Department will continue to do their jobs. If so, Trump could then fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions, replacing him with someone who would not protect the investigation. Trump could also impede the investigation by pardoning key witnesses, or repealing the regulations that establish the office of the special counsel.

Trump ‘s Increasing Ire at Robert Mueller

With every new indication that Robert Mueller may be getting closer to finding damning evidence in the Russia probe, Trump steps up his drive to put an end to the investigation. The New York Times reports that Trump wanted to fire Mueller in December, after erroneous reports that Mueller had tried to subpoena Trump family financial records from Deutsche Bank.

Recently, Trump’s ire toward Robert Mueller has increased with the raid of the home of Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen. (In reality, it was the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, and not Robert Mueller, who executed the raid.)

Trump appears to be attempting, in his usual way, to set the scene and influence the opinions of his followers by discrediting Rod Rosenstein and Robert Mueller via tweets such as the following one:

“Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democrat loyalists, or people that worked for Obama. Mueller is most conflicted of all (except Rosenstein who signed FISA & Comey letter). No Collusion, so they go crazy!

Constitutional Crisis

Many Republicans as well as Democrats oppose the idea of having Robert Mueller fired, and say they don’t think that it’s likely.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, tweeted:

“Anyone advising the President — in public or over the airwaves— to fire Bob Mueller does not have the President or the nation’s best interest at heart. Full stop.”, an organization that XXXX, stated, ““Trump will create a constitutional crisis if he fires special counsel Robert Mueller or Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller, or attempts to compromise the investigation by other means.” is responding to the possibility of Robert Mueller’s firing by organizing local rallies across the country, prepared to mobilize within 24 hours of the firing, should it occur.

How far will Donald Trump go to stop the investigation of Russian election meddling? With leading figures such as Hatch tweeting about it, and with people around the country already prepared to mobilize in non-violent protest if he does, it’s evident that many Americans feel he’ll start with Robert Mueller, and will stop at nothing.

Speier: Trump Will Go Down if Mueller Is Fired | CNN [2018-04-10]

Ex-DOJ Attorney: Rosenstein Should Have Already Been Fired | Fox News [2018-04-12]