Can the President be Indicted?

If you believe the blather on the various news channels, the President of the United States cannot be indicted for a crime while in office.  Is this true?  Hmmm. . .  is the President above the law?

Actually, it seems to be the “policy” of the Justice Department not to indict a sitting President, but the law does not seem to say that – at least not directly.  The policy seems rooted in the unique role of the Presidency in our three-branch form of government (Executive, Legislative and Judicial).

The problem with the Justice Department policy is best illustrated by an (hopefully) extreme hypothetical:  Suppose the President, in a “lash out” moment, shoves a member of his administration who he is unhappy with (such as the Attorney General or the FBI Director) and that individual falls, is knocked unconscious, and later dies.  At a minimum, this would be voluntary manslaughter, if not second-degree murder.  Any other citizen would be behind bars without bail almost immediately.  And so should the President be …

For some crimes it could be argued that criminal prosecution can wait until the President leaves office – crimes such as financial fraud or campaign finance violations.  If they are serious enough, the political impeachment process could be used, although it takes time and would arguably leave a criminal in office while the politics play out.

For serious crimes, such as treason, crimes of violence, and serious felonies, there should be no legal bar to immediate prosecution of the President.  It must be remembered that our Founders created a form of government largely in reaction to an overbearing King.  They never intended to shield the President from being treated like any other citizen in the event the President commits a serious or morally corrupt crime.  I am not sure our Founders ever anticipated where we find ourselves at the moment.  Who ever thought this question could come up?  Welcome to America 2.0. (Next issue – can the President pardon himself?)

— Kevin Palmer

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