House Democrats are considering doing away with legislation that bars the Justice Department from indicting a sitting president. According to The Hill, several members of the progressive left want to do away with the policy that makes it impossible for them to rein in a “rogue and lawless president.”
The decades-old rule was brought into the public eye recently after Special Counsel Robert Mueller cited it as his reason for recommending obstruction charges against Donald Trump. While the investigation didn’t exonerate the president on the question of obstruction of justice, it didn’t indict him, either. This seems to be because Mueller felt hemmed in by the Justice Department’s policy.
Earlier this week, Trump also raised eyebrows when he appeared to be supportive of receiving foreign intelligence if it helped his campaign, according to The Los Angeles Times.
In response, House progressives are drafting legislation that would crack down on foreign influence in U.S. elections. This legislation would require that campaigns alert the FBI if they receive an offer for foreign intelligence, and would bar candidates from accepting any foreign information during a campaign.
While this would help assuage the fears of some lawmakers, others want to take things a step further and make it possible to charge a president with a federal crime, even while they are in office. Right now, an informal rule in the Justice Department prohibits this from happening, which could shield a president who committed egregious crimes from facing prosecution.
Representative Gerry Connolly, a Democrat from Virginia and a member of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said that it’s something they are considering.
“It’s definitely on the menu,” he said. “I’m in favor of expanding enforcement tools and accountability tools, and that’s definitely one of them.”
Representative Hakeem Jeffries, a Democrat from New York and a member of the House Democratic Caucus, echoed his support.
“It strikes me as a reasonable thing to consider,” he said. “It’s fair to say that one of the options we should consider is revisiting that Department of Justice rule so you don’t have a rogue and lawless president immunized from criminal prosecution.”
The specifics of the legislation haven’t been laid out, yet.
“But I guarantee you it will be a topic of discussion,” Connolly said.
Currently, the only way for a president to be removed is by impeachment, a policy that was implemented so as not to put an undue burden on the person leading the country.