Ever since Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed in May of 2017 to investigate the Russian attack on the 2016 election and a possible conspiracy between Russian operatives and members of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, the question has repeatedly been asked: Can a sitting president be indicted while still in office, or would such charges have to wait until after the head of state leaves office?
According to a Department of Justice memo issued in 2000, the answer would seem to be no:
“The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
But Ken Starr, who served as independent counsel for the Whitewater investigation that later led to the impeachment of former President Bill Clinton, believes a president can indeed be indicted.
During an appearance on “Morning Joe” Wednesday, Starr commented:
“I think the president can be indicted. But that is not the position of the Justice Department traditionally.”
However, Starr then noted that based on established DOJ policy:
“The basic point is we do not have an authoritative resolution on the issue.”
As for his own opinion, Starr was very clear where he came down on the issue:
“No one is above the law. And so in my judgment the president can in fact be indicted.”
Co-host Joe Scarborough then asked if a president can be subpoenaed for testimony, recalling that Rudy Giuliani once claimed that Trump can refuse to testify if Mueller serves him with a subpoena. To that, Starr replied:
“The president is subject to subpoena.”
The issue of both a subpoena and indictment would likely have to be decided by the Supreme Court, and that raises the question of whether or not Trump nominated Brett Kavanaugh to fill the vacant seat on the high court as a way of protecting him from any legal action taken by Robert Mueller. Kavanaugh has not yet been confirmed, and the midterm election is now less than two months away. Very soon we could be faced with a Constitutional crisis unlike any we’ve ever faced in this country.
Featured Image Via the BBC