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Conservatives and liberals agree Trump at risk of indictment

His prosecution almost certainly would not happen however, until after he leaves office.

CREDIT: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
CREDIT: Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Friday’s document dump from the Mueller investigation and federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York (SDNY) has brought conservatives and liberals together in a surprising way. They all agree that President Trump — “Individual 1” — could be indicted for federal crimes.

In a lengthy column for Fox News, National Review columnist Andrew McCarthy shared his belief this weekend that Trump could be indicted “on a charge of violating federal campaign finance laws” for directing Michael Cohen to make payments to silence Karen McDougal and Stormy Daniels during the election.

While McCarthy downplayed the significance of such charges and offered equivocations with comparisons to charges President Obama faced, he nevertheless sussed out that there are far too many indications that Trump is the target of these investigations.

“The fact that Trump could have made the payment himself without violating the law does not excuse allegedly causing Cohen to violate the law,” McCarthy wrote. “The point for this day is that the Cohen case in New York City is not about Cohen. The president is in peril of being charged.”

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Speaking to CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday morning, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) agreed, going as far as to say that Trump “may be the first president in quite some time to face the real prospect of jail time.”

Schiff even went as far as noting that whoever succeeds Trump as president may have to face the decision as to whether to then pardon Trump — as President Ford did President Nixon.

Both Schiff and McCarthy admit that these charges would not be filed until Trump is out of office. That is certainly true of the federal charges alluded to in Robert Mueller’s documents, because the Justice Department does not indict sitting presidents. It’s less clear, however, if anything prevents the SDNY from bringing state charges.

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That means Trump would not be indicted until January 20, 2021 or January 20, 2025, depending on whether or not he wins reelection. There is, of course, the possibility of that date changing if Congress were to impeach Trump on the basis of the offenses laid out by these investigations.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY), incoming chair of the House Judiciary Committee, did not hold back Sunday on describing the allegations in the latest documents as “impeachable offenses.” While he left open the question of whether Trump’s offenses might be “important” enough to justify impeachment, he nevertheless told CNN that they were grounds for impeachment because “they were committed in service of fraudulently obtaining the office.”

Removing the president through impeachment requires approval by two-thirds of the Senate, which is majority Republican and unlikely to support such a vote. As ThinkProgress’ Ian Millhiser explained Saturday, the country’s founding fathers “did not anticipate a situation where a political party would organize to protect its criminal leader.”

Still, the totality of what these investigations have uncovered remains unknown, and there appears to be no disagreement that they have already implicated Trump in violating federal law. That means could be a question not of “if” Trump is indicted, but “when.”