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Don’t Just Sit There, Resist – Part IX: Impeach, Indict, or Both?

GRAND JURIES NOT SO GRAND: They listen to evidence and make a decision to try or not try a case. Illustration by J.
Taylor Basker.

By Alec Pruchnicki

The road to impeachment is clear. A combination of public scandals, congressional investigations, and Mueller findings will result in a long list of potentially impeachable offenses; the House will impeach; and the Senate will either develop a backbone and decide on the evidence whether or not President Trump should be removed, or it will continue to enable his excesses. But impeachment is only removal from office, not punishment for crimes. If anyone from a bank teller to a CEO were to embezzle money from a firm, the person would lose his or her job and be liable for criminal prosecution.

The question of whether a president can be indicted while in office is still a matter of contention. The Department of Justice has guidelines that prevent this, but there are many arguments on the other side. Members of Congress have been indicted during their terms and have often stayed in office until actually convicted. The Constitution specifically says that someone who has been impeached can be subjected to indictment afterward, but doesn’t mention indictment while in office one way or the other.

Although many politicians, especially liberals, believe that the Constitution is a living document that should be interpreted in relation to modern times, many conservatives are Originalists, like the late Justice Scalia, who believe that the original intent of the Founding Fathers takes precedence. So what was their intent?

Congressman Nadler has pointed out that according to the Constitution, congressional members cannot be arrested while going to Congress or be subject to libel laws for what is said during legislative debates. If Congress wanted to give similar protections to the president, they could have put it in, but they didn’t. Every one of the Founding Fathers knew that in 1649 King Charles I of England was executed for high treason, but they still didn’t put in any protection for the president.

Why not indict after the president is removed, or after he leaves office after serving his term? According to the Twenty-Second Amendment ratified in 1951, presidents may only serve for two terms. But in the original Constitution there was no limit, and nobody knew that George Washington was only going to be elected for two terms. A president could have been elected term after term indefinitely, so waiting for him to leave office would have been useless. They could have waited for him to be impeached, but that would assume that he was unable to undermine impeachment by illegal means.

If you remember President John Kennedy, Senator Robert Kennedy, or Martin Luther King Jr., you know that political assassinations are not unheard of in the United States. An internet conspiracy follower shot up a pizza parlor because he believed it was a front for a child abuse ring. If Republicans in Congress are frightened into obedience by threat of a primary election challenge, what would happen if their lives were at stake? Calling a president to account for his actions with an indictment is just as necessary as waiting for an impeachment.

Once all the evidence is in from congressional investigations, state investigations, and Mueller’s work, all options should be available to resist this president. Impeach? Indict? No, both—and as soon as possible.

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