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Nadler said he disagrees with the Justice Department’s long-standing assessment, expressed in a series of memos going back to the Nixon administration, that sitting presidents cannot face criminal indictment. “This country originated in a rebellion against the English king,” he argued. “We did not seek to create another king. Nobody—not the president, not anybody else—can be above the law.” But given that assessment, Nadler said a few days ago that he’s considering legislation to put a hold on the statute of limitations for sitting presidents, keeping Trump eligible for prosecution after he leaves office. Of course, any such bill would be controversial in the House and almost certainly dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate.
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Representative Adam Schiff, the California Democrat poised to take over the House Intelligence Committee, also said Sunday that last week’s filings were bad news for the president. “There’s a very real prospect that on the day Donald Trump leaves office, the Justice Department may indict him,” the former federal prosecutor said on CBS’s Face the Nation. “He may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time … This was the argument for putting Michael Cohen in jail on these campaign violations. That argument, I think, was equally made with respect to ‘Individual-1’ [the court filings’ identification for a person widely believed to be Trump], the president of the United States.”
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Democrats on the other side of the Capitol struck a slightly more cautious tone. Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat considering a 2020 presidential run, cast last week as a turning point. “We certainly have moved into a new phase,” he said on ABC’s This Week. “The president has now stepped into the same territory that ultimately led to President Nixon resigning the office (after he was named as) an unindicted co-conspirator.” While Murphy added that Trump’s troubles “are beyond the stage that led to impeachment proceedings against President Clinton, whether or not you think that was worthy of impeachment,” the senator also opined that Congress should wait for the special counsel’s report before taking action such as impeachment.
Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who caucuses with the Democrats and sits on the influential Senate Intelligence Committee, argued Sunday that calls for impeachment were premature. “I don’t think that there’s evidence yet available to the public where there would be, more or less, a consensus that this was an appropriate path,” he said on NBC’s Meet the Press. “My concern is that if impeachment is moved forward on the evidence that we have now, at least a third of the country would think it was just political revenge and a coup against the president. That wouldn’t serve us well at all. The best way to solve a problem like this, to me, is elections.” He called himself “a conservative when it comes to impeachment. I think it’s a last resort and only when the evidence is clear of a really substantial legal violation.”