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The Possibility Of Indicting A President Is A Lot More Complicated Than It Seems

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On Wednesday, Dec. 12, as President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, he implicated the president in crimes he allegedly committed during the 2016 presidential campaign. Though Trump…
On Wednesday, Dec. 12, as President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison, he implicated the president in crimes he allegedly committed during the 2016 presidential campaign. Though Trump vehemently denied any involvement and hasn’t been officially accused of or charged with any crimes, it brings up the long-standing debate of what legal ramifications might be in store for the commander-in-chief as the FBI investigation into possible collusion with Russia heats up. So, can a president be indicted while in office? The short answer: There is no short answer.
In one sense, no, a president can’t be indicted in office. This is based on precedent and standing Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines, which hold that doing so is unconstitutional. However, there appear to be no laws that explicitly forbid indicting a president, and some legal scholars argue that indictment is possible.
In 2000, the DOJ upheld its 1973 memo (released ahead of the resignation of President Nixon) which held, « The indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions. » In other words, issuing an indictment while a president is in office would make it too hard for the president to go about his important day-to-day work, so it would need to wait until the end of the presidency.

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