Nadler, Deutch, Swalwell Introduce Bill to Ensure Presidents Can be Held Accountable for Criminal Conduct
Washington, D.C. –Today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), along with Representatives Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Eric Swalwell (D-CA) of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced the No President Is Above the Law Act, which would pause the statute of limitations for any federal offense committed by a sitting president, whether it was committed before or during the president’s term of office. This legislation would ensure that presidents can be held accountable for criminal conduct just like every other American and not use the presidency to avoid legal consequences.
"No person can be permitted to evade accountability for their actions just because they happen to be President," said Chairman Nadler. "I have concerns with the Justice Department interpretation that a sitting president cannot be indicted, but if that is the policy, a president who commits a crime before or during their term in office, could exploit this loophole and avoid prosecution just because the statute of limitations has run out. This is unacceptable. The presidency is not a get-out-of-jail-free card."
"No one should be able to escape responsibility for their crimes by hiding in the Oval Office," said Congressman Deutch. "Even Special Counsel Mueller emphasized in his report that no one is above the law in our country--not even the President. 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. Our bill pauses the statute of limitation for offenses committed by sitting presidents to ensure that winning an election isn’t a legal defense."
"It's a basic American value that no one - not even the President - is above the law," said Congressman Swalwell. "While I disagree with the legal opinion that says a President cannot be indicted during their term in office, Congress can step up right now and change the law to ensure any President can be held accountable for crimes. I appreciate Chairman Nadler and Congressman Deutch introducing this bill with me today so that no President can evade punishment just by running out the clock. President Trump is living proof of the urgent need to close this loophole."
While some argue there is nothing to prevent a president from being indicted while in office, the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) within the Department of Justice and others take the opposing view. In fact, Special Counsel Mueller cited the OLC opinion as the reason he believed he could neither accuse President Trump of a crime nor seek his indictment. He explained that "while the [OLC] opinion concludes that a sitting President may not be prosecuted, it recognizes that a criminal investigation during the President’s term is permissible. The OLC opinion also recognizes that a President does not have immunity after he leaves office."
Most federal criminal offenses carry a five-year statute of limitations. Therefore, a president who is not prosecuted while in office for a crime they may have committed—before or during the presidency—could end up escaping liability altogether if the statute of limitations runs out before their term is over, especially if elected to a second term. This would make a mockery of the rule of law.
The No President Is Above the Law Act would ensure that every person—no matter his or her title or office—is held accountable under our laws.