This week, the Democratic majority in the U.S. House takes their seats, and they’re bringing their stated intent to enact closer oversight of the Trump administration with them. This week on the Today show, incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that she believes the question of whether or not a sitting president can be indicted is an “open discussion.” She refused to dismiss the consideration as those in the president’s own camp have.
Host Savannah Guthrie asked her:
‘Do you believe the special counsel should honor and observe the Department of Justice guidance that states a sitting president can not be indicted?’
‘I do not think that is conclusive — no, I do not… Let’s just see what Mueller does. Let’s spend our time on getting results for the American people… I think that is an open discussion in terms of the law.’
“Do you believe the special counsel should honor and observe the DOJ guidance that states a sitting president cannot be indicted?” –@savannahguthrie
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 3, 2019
There are definitely a couple of key points immediately available to back up Pelosi’s claim. For one, the guidance that Guthrie mentions is just that — guidance. The Department of Justice has taken up the question of whether or not a president can be indicted while in office before, but their conclusions have been murky.
Additionally, there is an already established precedent that sitting presidents can not escape legal challenges for behavior they carried on with while a private citizen. The U.S. Supreme Court established as much in the case of Bill Clinton facing a sexual assault allegation, and further down the line in Trump’s own case, the precedent has already been continued. He’s faced legal challenges over his ongoing connection to his businesses, for example, which some insists violates the Constitutional prohibition against presidents accepting gifts from foreign interests outside official channels.
In Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s case, his team has already gotten some groundwork for their possible case against the president established. They’ve had a court uphold their aims to charge meddlers in the 2016 elections with conspiracy against the United States, and they’ve taken down numerous corrupt individuals from the president’s inner circle like former campaign manager Paul Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
For now, the result of all of these threads remains out there as Mueller continues his work, although some reports have indicated that work is nearing its end and the special counsel’s team is preparing their final report.
Peloosi is not the first to suggest Trump could face indictment as these efforts come to a close.
Incoming House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff insisted during an appearance on CNN:
‘There is a very powerful case to be made that you can indict a sitting president.’
He’s previously asserted that Trump faces the “very real prospect of jail time” after leaving office over issues on yet another front — the illegal hush money scheme his former lawyer Michael Cohen helped him with that targeted women with whom he’d had affairs.
Cohen has been sentenced to three years in prison for crimes including that scheme, and Schiff has pointed out that “every argument” that prosecutors used against the lawyer could also be used on Trump.
Featured Image via screenshot from the video