Amid swirling Trump scandals, Cummings backs rules change to allow indictment of a sitting president
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), the Democrat who takes over chairmanship of the House Oversight Committee next month, called Sunday for the overhaul of legal guidelines that currently protect presidents from criminal prosecution.
“I think we should always reconsider laws and regulations, and this is one we definitely should reconsider,” Cummings told CNN’s State of the Union.
The Maryland Democrat raised the prospect of a rules change against the backdrop of a host of scandals swirling around the Trump administration.
Department of Justice (DOJ) guidelines currently state that a sitting president cannot be indicted, although some legal experts say that court precedent is not entirely settled on that matter.
As The Washington Post reported this weekend, nearly every organization touched by Donald Trump over the past decade — both civil and governmental — is currently under investigation. And as ThinkProgress has reported, the administration has been beset by an unending parade of scandals.
Alleged misdeeds include alleged corruption by the president’s private company, which is dogged by civil suits over its dodgy business practices and questionable ties to foreign companies.
Also in the crosshairs of investigators is Trump’s inaugural committee, said to have been the recipient of large sums of still-unaccounted for foreign cash. And the president’s charitable foundation is being sued by the state of New York for alleged “illegal conduct.”
Perhaps most significantly, Trump’s administration and many of his close associates are under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, to determine what role they may have played assisting Russia as it attempted to undermine the U.S. electoral process in 2016.
With Democrats taking control of the House beginning in January, the purview of Cummings’ committee will include the White House and the Trump administration.
Cummings reprised comments he made to CNN last week, when he said Trump’s alleged role directing his “fixer” Michael Cohen to make illegal payments to two women with whom the president allegedly had affairs several years ago would probably be “an impeachable offense.”
He doubled down on those remarks on Sunday. “The evidence is certainly powerful enough. I think the president knows that,” Cummings said.
Cummings also echoed remarks by fellow Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff (CA), who is poised to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Schiff told CNN last week that the Office of Legal Counsel in the DOJ should revisit the policy against indicting presidents.
“I think the Justice Department needs to reexamine that Office of Legal Counsel opinion, that you cannot indict a sitting president under circumstances in which the failure to do so may mean that person escapes justice,” the California Democrat said.
Cummings told CNN he hopes to look at a variety of issues on his committee, including the insertion of a citizenship question into the Census, the administration’s mishandling of White House security clearances, and efforts at voter suppression around the country, which he said take their cue from the president.
“We think a lot of that sort of filters down from the White House,” he said citing the president’s now defunct voter fraud committee, which some critics — including Cummings — have said was more akin to a voter suppression committee.
Cummings also vowed to hold hearings into “skyrocketing drug prices” and ways to shore up the Affordable Care Act.
The ACA, or Obamacare, on Friday took the latest in a barrage of hits from Republicans and a presidential administration determined to dismantle it, when a conservative judge decreed that the law which provides health care for millions of Americans is unconstitutional.
“We’ll certainly be taking a look at that and ensure it stays in force,” he told CNN.