Whether Donald Trump can be indicted as a sitting president remains a point of debate as special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation intensifies. Ken Starr, the independent counsel who investigated former President Bill Clinton’s affair in the 1990s, opines that it’s possible.
“Do you think that if there is the right evidence, Bob Mueller or another prosecutor could indict a sitting president, Donald Trump?” MSNBC host Ari Melber asked Starr on Wednesday, which was the 20th anniversary of Clinton’s impeachment.
“Yes,” Starr replied. “But the Justice Department has a different view and, as you know, had a different view for almost half a century, going back to a brief file by then–Solicitor General Robert Bork, then Office of Legal Counsel formal opinions, including during the Clinton administration.”
Bork in his brief wrote that a vice president could be indicted while serving, but that a sitting president could not be indicted.
“It was a very impressive legal document with very thorough analysis. I just happen to disagree with them,” Starr said.
Starr, who is Republican, continued: “President Clinton said in the civil setting—not criminal—I should be immune from a civil lawsuit during the course of my tenure as president, and the Supreme Court unanimously said, ‘No, Mr. President, there’s no basis in our rule of law, in constitutional order, for you to enjoy…a timeout.’”
The former special prosecutor said he believes the public interest in the enforcement of criminal laws is higher than civil litigation.
“As important as civil litigation is to the individual litigant and to the rule of law, the vindication of the criminal laws is all the more important,” Starr concluded.
Starr’s opinion is different than that of Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
“The Justice Department memos going back to before Nixon say that you cannot indict a sitting president, you have to impeach him,” Giuliani told CNN in May. “We think it’s bigger than that. We think it’s a constitutional rule, but I don’t think you’re ever going to confront that because nobody’s ever going to indict a sitting president.”
Starr also said that Mueller is “a person of complete integrity” and to “let the man do his job.” He added that “impeachment is hell” for the public to go through.
Clinton, who had an extramarital affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, was impeached by the House of Representatives on December 19, 1998, the second time a president has been impeached in the country’s history. The Senate held his trial on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Clinton was acquitted of the charges by the Senate.