Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running for president in 2020, released her latest policy plan on Friday, detailing the legislative and executive measures she believes are necessary to make clear that sitting presidents can be indicted.
“If Donald Trump were anyone other than the President of the United States right now, he would be in handcuffs and indicted,” Team Warren said, calling for statutory clarity and increased prosecutorial discretion to rein in a president’s ability to flout the law.
Warren’s plan was released just two days after Special Counsel Robert Mueller said that bringing charges against a sitting president was “not an option.”
Warren viewed Mueller’s remarks, together with his 448-page report, as a referral to the Congress recommending President Trump for impeachment. Impeachment is the constitutional remedy for presidential wrongdoing, but Warren believes impeachment shouldn’t be the only way.
“But impeachment isn’t supposed to be the only way that a President can be held accountable for committing a crime,” she said. “That’s why I’ve got a plan to make sure that no President is above the law.”
The first point in Warren’s plan called on the Congress to pass a law clarifying its intent that the Department of Justice (DOJ) has the power to indict a sitting President of the United States for criminal activity. By removing the ambiguity, Warren believes that one of the strongest arguments against indictment, that Congress has the sole authority to decide when to interfere with the president’s duties, would disappear.
Warren also called on the Congress to “amend obstruction of justice statutes to explicitly allow for indictment when the President abuses the powers of the office,” which she said would allow federal prosecutors to indict a sitting president “abuses his constitutional authority.”
“That’s what Donald Trump did when he fired Jim Comey and forced out Jeff Sessions to obstruct the Russia investigation. It’s what he did when he dangled pardons to his friends and former staffers to try to get them to lie for him,” Warren said.
Also, in a more substantive change, Warren pledged to appoint an Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to reverse the OLC opinion saying that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
“That policy, first advanced in an opinion by the Office of Legal Counsel during Watergate and backed up by an additional memo in 2000, is why Robert Mueller couldn’t indict President Trump for obstruction of justice,” Warren wrote.
Warren concluded her latest policy proposal by reiterating that a democracy only works if a president is accountable the rule of law. She promised that the proposed changes will “make sure that’s the case for generations to come.”
“Donald Trump is not a King. No President is,” she continued.
Warren declared that, if she is elected president, she would appoint an Attorney General whose priority is to protect the law, not the president. She criticized William Barr for his job performance thus far and for how he got the job in the first place.
“How did he get the job? By sending an unsolicited memo arguing that the President of the United States could not obstruct justice,” she said. “That’s the same false argument he repeated in his four-page letter in an attempt to spin Donald Trump’s criminal behavior.”
[Image via JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images]