Presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has urged Congress to pass a law that would overturn a Justice Department policy statement that the President of the United States cannot be charged with a federal crime while serving in office.
It was that policy that Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller said earlier this week precluded President Trump from being charged with obstruction of justice as part of the investigation into Russia's interference with the 2016 presidential election.
Becoming the first of the 22 Democratic candidates to urge passage of such legislation, which we called for Wednesday, Warren said that if elected president, she would seek to pass a law clarifying that the Justice Department can indict the president of the United States. She also renewed her call to impeach President Trump.
In a statement issued by "Team Warren" entitled "No President is Above the Law," Warren wrote that when the Mueller report was first issued she stayed up all night reading all 448 pages. When she finished, she said, three things were clear:
First, a hostile foreign government attacked our 2016 election to help candidate Donald Trump get elected. Second, candidate Donald Trump welcomed that help. Third, when the federal government tried to investigate, now-President Donald Trump did everything he could to delay, distract, and otherwise obstruct that investigation.
That’s a crime. If Donald Trump were anyone other than the President of the United States right now, he would be in handcuffs and indicted. Robert Mueller said as much in his report, and he said it again on Wednesday.
“The Special Counsel’s Office is part of the Department of Justice, and by regulation it was bound by that Department policy. Charging the President with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider.”
Mueller’s statement made clear what those of us who have read his report already knew: He’s referring President Trump for impeachment, and it’s up to Congress to act.
That’s why I came out in favor of impeachment after reading all 448 pages of Mueller’s report. This is not about politics — it’s our constitutional duty as members of Congress. It’s a matter of principle.
But impeachment isn’t supposed to be the only way that a President can be held accountable for committing a crime.
That’s why I’ve got a plan to make sure that no President is above the law.
Congress should make it clear that Presidents can be indicted for criminal activity, including obstruction of justice. And when I’m President, I’ll appoint Justice Department officials who will reverse flawed policies so no President is shielded from criminal accountability.
Donald Trump believes that he can violate the law, and he believes that the role of the Department of Justice is to help him get away with it. That’s not how our country is supposed to work.
Pass a law clarifying Congress’s intent that the Department of Justice can indict the President of the United States.
Amend obstruction of justice statutes to explicitly allow for indictment when the President abuses the powers of the office.
Appoint an Attorney General who will protect the rule of law.
Warren has nailed it. But we shouldn't have to wait until after the 2020 election for Congress to act. Regardless of whether impeachment moves forward, this legislation needs to be enacted, and Democrats who control the House of Representatives should move it forward.