After President Donald Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen implicated him in federal crimes Tuesday, there’s been widespread speculation regarding whether or not the president will be indicted or even impeached over the allegations.
Cohen said in court that Trump directed him to make illegal payments to two women during the 2016 presidential campaign in an attempt to prevent them from speaking publicly about affairs they said they had with the president.
“I participated in this conduct … for the principal purpose of influencing the election,” Cohen told a judge in the United States district court in Manhattan, adding that he did so “in coordination with and at the direction of” the president.
Cohen’s statements came during a hearing in which he pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws and other charges.
Laurence Tribe, a professor of constitutional law at Harvard and a co-author of “To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment,” told The Globe Post that an ordinary citizen in Trump’s position, “without doubt,” would likely be indicted for conspiracy to commit a federal crime.
A sitting president, however, has never been indicted. The Department of Justice holds the position that indicting the president “would unconstitutionally undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions.”
Tribe argued that other than precedent, there is no legal reason why a president cannot be indicted.
“All the reasons people have offered make no sense and have no basis in the Constitution’s text, structure or history,” he said.
Trump tweeted on Wednesday that Cohen “plead guilty to two counts of campaign finance violations that are not a crime.”
I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. “Justice” took a 12 year old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to “break” – make up stories in order to get a “deal.” Such respect for a brave man!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 22, 2018
Tribe said Trump “has no understanding of the relevant legal regime,” and argued the campaign finance violation charges brought against Cohen are “serious crimes.”
If Trump is not indicted, the Congress can still bring impeachment proceedings against him based on Cohen’s allegations.
The Constitution states that the legislature can impeach federal officers if they’ve committed “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
“The alleged crimes make Trump impeachable,” Tribe said. “But whether and when the House should proceed to impeach is a complex judgment call.”
If legislators decide to initiate impeachment proceedings, the process begins with the House of Representatives holding hearings. If a majority of representatives vote in favor of impeachment, the Senate holds a trial overseen by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
If two-thirds of the Senate finds the president guilty, he is removed from office and replaced with the vice president.
Three previous presidents have been subjected to impeachment proceedings. Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton were impeached by the House but acquitted in the Senate and stayed in office. Richard Nixon resigned in order to avoid being impeached.
Today’s guilty pleas by Trump’s personal fixer Michael Cohen directly implicate the very legitimacy of his election as president. This is hardly the time to hold hearings on confirming a lifetime Justice. It’s the time to hold hearings on the election and whether Trump stole it.
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) August 22, 2018