Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) went on Jimmy Kimmel Live! Thursday night and suggested that a failed impeachment of President Donald Trump could hamper criminal investigations of Trump after he leaves office.
Pelosi told Jimmy Kimmel that Trump “knows it’s not a good idea to be impeached, but the silver lining for him is, then he believes that he would be exonerated by the United States Senate, and there’s a school of thought that says, if the Senate acquits you, why bring up charges against him in the private sector when he’s no longer president?”
“So when we go through with our case, it’s got to be ironclad,” she said.
Attorney Ross Garber, a legal analyst for CNN and an impeachment expert, told Law&Crime that, if Pelosi meant what was implied, she’s wrong:
“Speaker Pelosi seemed to imply that if the House were to impeach a President and the Senate were to fail to convict, it could impair a future criminal prosecution. One has nothing to do with the other. The impeachment process is within the Legislative Branch,” Garber said. “The criminal process is handled by the Executive and Judicial branches. A person can be impeached by the House, acquitted by the Senate and still be prosecuted criminally.”
He was not the only one baffled by Pelosi’s remarks.
I confess that I’m deeply confused here. Impeachment is a completely different mechanism than criminal prosecution. There is no reason as far as I know that acquittal in the Senate would preclude criminal charges. Am I missing something??
— Quinta Jurecic (@qjurecic) May 31, 2019
— Matt Ford (@fordm) May 31, 2019
Others suggested that Pelosi’s comments were not as off-base as they seemed:
This apparently came up after the Clinton impeachment. https://t.co/NawEAGve4i
I don’t find the arguments that a failed impeachment prevents criminal prosecution convincing. But the chance that this Supreme Court would latch onto those arguments to help Trump is not zero.
— Ian Millhiser (@imillhiser) May 31, 2019
In Garber’s estimation, however, Pelosi has said other “odd things” about impeachment.
Pelosi has also argued that impeachment should not be brought unless it is “almost impossible for the Senate to exonerate.”
Pelosi said that an impeachment process should be undertaken only if it is “almost impossible for the Senate to exonerate.” https://t.co/dxRobXgnUp I’m not aware of any serious support for this standard. 3/
— Ross Garber (@rossgarber) May 31, 2019
“I’m not aware of any serious support for this standard,” Garber responded.
Pelosi also said in the past that impeachment would divide the country, and that Trump was “just not worth it.”
“Impeachment is so divisive to the country that unless there’s something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, I don’t think we should go down that path, because it divides the country. And he’s just not worth it,” Pelosi said in an interview with the Washington Post.
Garber also wrote that this idea “makes no sense.”
“The ‘he’s just not worth it standard’ is a new one. I get the political calculation, but what Pelosi’s actually saying about impeachment makes no sense, especially since the question on the table is whether the House should consider impeachment, not the actual up-or-down vote,” he said.
[Screengrab via Jimmy Kimmel Live]