A prosecutor must be able to indict a sitting president: the OLC’s “equitable tolling” problem

My new Slate piece, with big thanks to a bunch of smart legal scholars and TwitterLaw friends:

Last week, prosecutors in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York alleged in court filings that Donald Trump directed his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, to make hush money payments that violated campaign finance laws. The prosecutors recommended serious prison time for Cohen, and commentators remarked widely that Trump could be facing his own indictment if he were not president, because the Department of Justice has a policy of not indicting a sitting president. But this news highlights a major problem with this policy: statutes of limitations. The intractability of that problem is a compelling argument for why prosecutors must be able to indict a sitting president. Otherwise, a president could escape prosecution for many felonies by running out the clock.

The campaign finance felony Trump may have directed has a five-year statute of limitations, after which time a defendant cannot be tried if he has not been indicted. What if President Trump wins a second term?

Link to read more here.

Author: Jed Shugerman

Legal historian at Fordham Law School, teaching Torts, Administrative Law, and Constitutional History. JD/PhD in History, Yale. Red Sox and Celtics fan, youth soccer coach. Author of "The People's Courts: Pursuing Judicial Independence in America" (2012) on the rise of judicial elections in America. I filed an amicus brief in the Emoluments litigation against Trump along with a great team of historians. I'm working on "The Rise of the Prosecutor Politicians," a history of prosecutors and American politics, and another project on the origins of independent agencies in America.

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