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Democrats push law that would allow Donald Trump to be prosecuted

Sun Sentinel logoSun Sentinel 5/13/2019 By Anthony Man, Sun Sentinel

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks as fellow U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, left, Ted Deutch, second from left, Hakeem Jeffries, second from right, and Val Demings, right, stand with him during a news conference, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in New York. The Justice Department on Thursday plans to release a redacted version of the special counsel's report on Russian election interference and Donald Trump's campaign. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) © ASSOCIATED PRESS U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks as fellow U.S. Reps. Madeleine Dean, left, Ted Deutch, second from left, Hakeem Jeffries, second from right, and Val Demings, right, stand with him during a news conference, Wednesday, April 17, 2019, in New York. The Justice Department on Thursday plans to release a redacted version of the special counsel's report on Russian election interference and Donald Trump's campaign. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II) A trio of House Judiciary Committee Democrats, including South Florida's Ted Deutch, is pushing legislation to pause the statute of limitations while a president is in office.

The No President Is Above the Law Act is aimed at President Donald Trump.

Many Democrats -- and hundreds of former federal prosecutors -- believe Trump has committed crimes detailed in the report from Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Trump is shielded from facing criminal charges by a controversial Justice Department policy preventing prosecution of a sitting president but not a former president.

One effect of the policy is that a president who avoids prosecution while in office could escape prosecution altogether because the statute of limitations would have run out by the time the president is out of office. Most federal criminal offenses carry a five-year statute of limitations.

Under the legislation sponsored by Deutch, who represents Broward and Palm Beach counties; Jerry Nadler, the committee chairman from New York; and Eric Swalwell, a committee member from California, the statute of limitations would be paused for any federal offense committed by a sitting president -- regardless of whether it was committed before or during the president's term of office.

"No one should be able to escape responsibility for their crimes by hiding in the Oval Office," Deutch said in a statement. "If the Justice Department maintains its policy giving presidents a break from the threat of criminal prosecution during their term, Congress should act to ensure that it doesn't ultimately prevent the pursuit of justice."

Nadler said the presidency "is not a get-out-of-jail-free card."

The legislation stands next to no chance of becoming law. It would have to pass the Republican controlled Senate -- and then go to Trump to sign or veto. Democrats don't have enough votes to override a veto. Some constitutional scholars believe a president can be indicted while in office.

But the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel has long said that a president can't be prosecuted while in office, but could be after the term ends. Mueller cited that policy as a reason Trump couldn't be charged.

More than 800 former federal prosecutors signed a letter stating that Trump's conduct described in the Mueller report would result in prosecution on "multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice" for anyone who isn't the president.

The Nadler-led committee has been at the forefront of Democrats' efforts to conduct oversight of the Trump administration. Last week the committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt, a move White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called a "desperate ploy."

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©2019 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

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