A Good Idea for 2020 Democrats to Beat Trump

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presidential campaign has garnered a reputation for being policy heavy and generally wonky, but perhaps no idea she’s had is more simple or obvious than the one she rolled out today: reversing Department of Justice policy saying a sitting president can’t be indicted.


In a Medium post today, Warren argued the official DOJ policy, which was first used during Watergate and later backed up in the waning days of the Clinton administration in a memo by former assistant attorney general (and now U.S. circuit judge) Randolph Moss, is deeply flawed (no shit) and needs to be changed.

Yes, Congress has a constitutional obligation to impeach the President when he violates the law. But lawyers for previous presidents have used this constitutional duty to argue that the only way the President can be held accountable for criminal behavior is through impeachment.

This argument hasn’t always been accepted by the federal government, and it’s been criticized by scores of constitutional experts, but it’s still the official policy of the Department of Justice.

Warren’s idea is to push for congressional remedies to clarify that sitting presidents can be indicted, and in the meantime, appoint Justice Department officials who could both reverse the precedent on indicting a sitting president and be willing to make that call should the time come. (Of course, the next Republican president could just reverse this, which is why changing the actual statutes is the more pressing issue.)

There’s not a whole lot to say about this other than: good! Not only is it plainly obvious to anyone whose brain hasn’t become infected with DC-itis that the president shouldn’t be the only person in the country immune to federal indictment, but this is also a very easy way for the eventual Democratic nominee to flip the script on Trump, whose rallies in 2016 regularly featured claims that if anyone else in America had done what Hillary Clinton did with her emails, they’d be in prison.

The animating principle of Trump’s administration has been wanton corruption. And even if the Democrats who actually have power are prepared to do jack shit with it, it’s good to know that at least one presidential candidate is thinking about how to fix the problem going forward.

News editor, Splinter