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Senator Says Congress Almost Ready for Trump Indictment

Newsweek logo Newsweek 1/16/2019 David Brennan

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says more evidence is needed to indict President Trump. © Steven Senne Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse says more evidence is needed to indict President Trump. A senior Democratic senator has suggested Congress is almost ready to indict President Donald Trump, and is hopeful he may face criminal charges.

Sheldon Whitehouse, the Democratic senator from Rhode Island, spoke to CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on Tuesday and stressed that while Congress is closing in on Trump, more evidence is required for an air-tight case.

Read More: Can Mueller indict Trump while he’s president? Pelosi says it’s an "open discussion"

“I do not at all subscribe to the [Office of Legal Counsel] theory that a president can’t be indicted,” Whitehouse told Cuomo. “I think that if there are crimes that he has committed he should be indicted.”

“I think that the Office of Legal Counsel [OLC] and the Department of Justice bends over backward to take the most executive branch-friendly position that it possibly can,” he continued, “but I think a court taking a look at this would say, ‘No, no no, no, no.’”

The OLC says that indicting a sitting president would be unconstitutional as it would “undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”

But Whitehouse cited “the Nixon precedents and others,” which he said do not support the concept of a president “not being answerable to the public in this way.”

The senator warned that an unanswerable president “would create a terrible situation—you've got a president who the public knows is the subject of criminal investigation, may very well be involved in criminal activity, and you don't get a resolution of that question. You don’t get pressure on him to answer questions and get out—that doesn’t seem like an appropriate way to deal with it.”

However, when Cuomo asked if there was enough evidence against Trump to bring charges now, Whitehouse noted he would like investigators to have more time. A former U.S. attorney and former attorney general for Rhode Island, Whitehouse said: “I would want to know a lot more.”

“We are certainly in a mode, I believe, of moving toward indictment and charges of the president. But I do not believe, based on what I know―[special counsel Robert Mueller] may know more―that we’re at the stage of actually being able to make the charge.”

Cuomo then put it to the senator that there is still no proof of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, but Whitehouse disagreed. “I would not say that,” he told the journalist. “I would say there has been no direct proof.”

“I think that there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that has piled up that one perhaps could take to a jury. But as a prosecutor carrying the burden of persuasion with reasonable doubt on the defendant's side, I’d want to keep investigating and try to get some really direct evidence.”


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