Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) announced Friday that if she’s elected president in 2020, she would work to reverse existing Department of Justice guidelines that prohibit the indictment of a sitting president.
Warren, in a lengthy blog post, lamented the constraints placed on Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office by the guidance of the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, and suggested that if Mueller had been free to indict the president for obstruction of justice, he would have.
“If Donald Trump were anyone other than the President of the United States right now, he would be in handcuffs and indicted. Robert Mueller said as much in his report, and he said it again on Wednesday,” Warren wrote, referencing Mueller’s Wednesday statement in which he said charging Trump with a crime was “not an option we could consider.”
The Massachusetts Democrat and presidential hopeful goes on to write that, while she supports impeachment, there should be another mechanism by which to hold the president accountable. Her solution is twofold: She would appoint an assistant attorney general to rescind the Office of Legal Counsel guidance prohibiting the indictment of a sitting president, and she would push for “a law clarifying Congress’s intent that the Department of Justice can indict the President of the United States.”
“No matter what he may think, Donald Trump is not a king. No president is. And our democracy only works if everyone can be held accountable,” she concludes.
Warren’s suggestion that the OLC opinion prevented Mueller from reaching a conclusion on whether the president criminally obstructed justice stands in contrast to Attorney General William Barr’s description of his conversations with Mueller’s team.
“We asked them a lot about the reasoning behind this and the basis for [failing to reach a conclusion on obstruction]. Special Counsel Mueller stated three times to us in that meeting in response to our questioning that he emphatically was not saying that but for the OLC opinion he would have found obstruction,” Barr testified before Congress earlier this month. “He said that in the future the facts of a case against a president might be such that a special counsel would recommend abandoning the OLC opinion but this is not such a case. We did not understand exactly why the special counsel was not reaching a decision.”