Sen. King: A Sitting President Can Be Indicted; Impeachment Is an 'Intermediate Step'

By Susan Jones | December 5, 2017 | 9:05 AM EST

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) (Photo: Screen grab/CNN's "New Day")

( - Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) said he's not prepared to say whether President Trump's words or actions constitute obstruction of justice.

But the senator did explain on Tuesday that impeachment would be an intermediate step, coming between the indictment of a sitting president and his prosecution.


"All of this legal discussion -- there's a subtlety here that I think is important, King told CNN's "New Day" on Tuesday:

Whenever I have a question about the Constitution or what it means, the first place I go is The Federalist. And in the 69th Federalist, (Alexander) Hamilton's writing about the powers of the presidency.

And he says explicitly...if the president commits a high crime or misdemeanor -- treason, bribery -- he can be impeached. But interestingly, and I don't usually want to read on TV, but it's important to get this right.

He says, the president can be impeached and removed from office “and would afterwards be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of the law."

And I think that is a pretty clear statement that a sitting president can be indicted.  And that's why Nixon was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Watergate case, and it's also why Gerald Ford pardoned him, because he would be subject to criminal prosecution after he left office.

So the intermediate step here is impeachment, and that's a question that the Congress will have to decide.

Questions about Trump obstructing justice gained traction over the weekend when Trump tweeted, "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI."

The day after Trump fired Flynn, he urged former FBI Director James Comey to go easy on Flynn.

According to a memo written by Comey at the time, Trump told him: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”

Trump critics see that as the president trying to obstruct a federal investigation into someone who lied to the FBI.

But Trump denies it, most recently tweeting over the weekend: "I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!"

On Monday, President Trump's personal lawyer made waves when he told Axios, "The "President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case."

Meanwhile, Sen. King and other Democrats are now quoting then-Sen. Jeff Sessions who in 1999 said obstruction of justice in the Bill Clinton matter was an impeachable offense. Bill Clinton was impeached on charges of lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice.

King said he would not draw any conclusions about Trump obstructing justice:

“The facts have to be proved, and in fact, in an impeachment, as you know, the  House impeaches and the Senate acts as a I'm not going to express a final opinion on what it all means, because it may come before me in that context.”


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