Sen. Elizabeth Warren is making a bold move to change a musty old rule that allows a sitting president to continually abuse power without being held accountable.
Friday, in a post for Medium, in a post titled “No President Is Above The Law,” Warren (D), is encouraging lawmakers to pass legislation allowing a U.S. president to be indicted. This is a measure that could have allowed Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who did not exonerate Trump, to do just that. Indict him, writes Julia Conley for Common Dreams.
“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,” Warren noted. “That’s not how our country is supposed to work.”
Warren was referring to a Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) finding earlier this week that prevents Mueller from even thinking about charging President Donald Trump with criminal offenses, USA Today reports.
“Congress should make it clear that presidents can be indicted for criminal activity, including obstruction of justice,” Warren wrote. “And when I’m president, I’ll appoint Justice Department officials who will reverse flawed policies so no president is shielded from criminal accountability.”
Congress should pass a law clarifying that DOJ can indict the president if he or she commits a crime in office, and should amend our obstruction of justice statutes to explicitly allow for indictment when the President abuses the powers of the office—like Donald Trump did.
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 31, 2019
If elected, Warren said she hopes to appoint an assistant attorney general to the OLC who will reverse the Watergate-era opinion that bars a sitting president from being indicted. She said she intends to push to specifically amend obstruction of justice statutes to allow indictment when necessary.
In his initial public statement on the Russia investigation, Mueller didn’t say Trump committed a crime. However, he also made it clear his team wasn’t exonerating him.
“If we had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mueller said.
Mueller was dead serious about this, but his hands were tied, and Warren knows it.
“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,” she wrote. “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 no president is above the law.”
Warren’s plan would require Congress to pass legislation specifying that the DOJ can indict a sitting president. The new law would nullify a decision made by the DOJ’s OLC in 1973 that prosecuting a president would be harmful to the U.S., leaving impeachment as Congress’s only option in cases of criminal misconduct.
“Yes, Congress has a constitutional obligation to impeach the president when he violates the law,” Warren wrote. “But lawyers for previous presidents have used this constitutional duty to argue that the only way the president can be held accountable for criminal behavior is through impeachment.”
Presidents shouldn’t receive special treatment, she contended.
“Congress should make it clear that the president can be held accountable for violating the law, just like everyone else,” Warren said.
But Warren also has issues with Bill Barr, Trump’s attorney general, calling him disgraceful for disobeying the congressional subpoena to release Mueller’s unredacted report and for fiercely defending Trump in his summary of Mueller’s findings. The Massachusetts senator said if she is elected she hopes to appoint an attorney general and other DOJ officials who would reverse the agency’s 1973 decision. Officials, she wrote, “who [know] their job is to objectively advise the executive branch on what it can and cannot do under the Constitution.”
“Our democracy only works if everyone can be held accountable,” Warren wrote. “These changes will make sure that’s the case for generations to come.”
Trump keeps acting as if he is above the law. Whether he’s impeached or kicked out of office in 2020, measures like the ones Warren promotes are essential if we don’t want another repeat performance of presidential ineptitude and lies.
Warren discusses this in the lively video below.
Featured image courtesy of the video above