Should DOJ be able to indict the president? Elizabeth Warren has a plan for that

Warren slams Barr, vows to change law, policy such that "no president is shielded from criminal accountability"

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published June 1, 2019 7:00AM (EDT)

Elizabeth Warren (AP/Charles Krupa)
Elizabeth Warren (AP/Charles Krupa)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts unveiled a plan Friday that would reverse current policy to allow the Justice Department to indict and prosecute a sitting president.

“If Donald Trump were anyone other than the President of the United States right now, he would be in handcuffs and indicted. Robert Mueller said as much in his report, and he said it again on Wednesday,” Warren wrote in a Medium post.

Warren, who was the first major 2020 Democratic candidate to call for Trump’s impeachment, said the impeachment process dictated by the Constitution should not be the only way to hold a president accountable for committing a crime.

“That’s why I’ve got a plan to make sure that no President is above the law,” she wrote, vowing to appoint Justice Department officials who will “reverse flawed policies so no President is shielded from criminal accountability.”

Warren also called on Congress to pass a law that makes it clear that sitting presidents “can be indicted for criminal activity, including obstruction of justice.”

Warren’s statement came after Mueller made his first public comments about the investigation, reiterating that standing Justice Department policy holds that a sitting president cannot be indicted while in office.

“The special counsel’s office is part of the Department of Justice and by regulation it was bound by that department policy. Charging the president with a crime was, therefore, not an option we could consider,” Mueller said, before adding his now famous summation: "If we had had confidence that the president did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”

Warren slammed Attorney General William Barr in her statement, writing that he acted to “mislead the public” and made a “false argument” to “spin Donald Trump’s criminal behavior.”

Barr has spun himself in circles justifying his actions ahead of the Mueller report’s release. In an interview with CBS News aired Friday, Barr admitted that he overruled Mueller’s conclusion and determined that Trump did not obstruct justice because “we didn’t agree with the legal analysis” presented by Mueller, which he said “did not reflect the views of the department.”

That’s effectively the opposite of what Barr told Congress earlier this month, claiming that he and top DOJ officials “accepted the special counsel's legal framework for purposes of our analysis and evaluated the evidence as presented by the special counsel in reaching our conclusions.”

Warren wrote that Barr “disgraced himself by acting like Trump’s personal defense attorney,” vowing that she would appoint an attorney general “who will protect the rule of law.”

“No matter what he may think, Donald Trump is not a King. No President is,” she concluded. “And our democracy only works if everyone can be held accountable. These changes will make sure that’s the case for generations to come.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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