06 March 2018


Constitutional law expert Jonathan Turley wrote an essay for the Washington Post like week (link here) with the title "Can Donald Trump be indicted while serving as president?" and the subhead "Two lines of legal reasoning say he can't. They're both wrong."

Turley makes a compelling argument, writing in a style understandable by non-lawyers, that nothing in the constitution prevents a sitting President from being indicted while still in office. At the same time, he argues that the best way to evict a felon from the Oval Office is impeachment and removal.

But if Congress fails to act, Turley posits, then an indictment is the route to take.

He writes: "The question of whether a sitting president can be charged ultimately turns on which you think is worse: an indicted president or an immunized president who remains in the Oval Office. This debate has long entertained constitutional law professors, alongside other parlor-game questions like presidential emoluments, self-pardons and presidential obstruction. The Trump administration has the dubious distinction of moving all of these questions from the realms of the hypothetical to the actual."

What is clear from reading his piece is that opinions on both side of the issue will be divided by how you interpret the constitution and other documents written by the founders. Scholars, of course, will not decide these issues, should Trump actually be indicted, but judges will, and sometimes they turn to scholarly writing.

As Turley notes in closing: "In the end, the Constitution does not protect us from a criminal in the Oval Office. It merely gives us options in dealing with a felonious President."

Congress, of course, could make all of this academic by impeaching Trump before there was ever a chance to indict him, and there's certainly more than enough compelling evidence that the current President has committed impeachable acts. If they remain gutless, however, and continue to put party before country, indictment may be the only option, as Turley notes.

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