Pelosi wants to change law to allow a sitting president to be indicted

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Friday that she is in favor of changing the executive guideline that prevents the Justice Department from indicting a sitting president.

While Pelosi remains reluctant to back impeaching President Trump, she said in an interview with NPR on Friday that she is ready to change the law to limit presidential power.

"I do think that we will have to pass some laws that will have clarity for future presidents. [A] president should be indicted, if he's committed a wrongdoing - any president. There is nothing anyplace that says the president should not be indicted," Pelosi said.

"That's something cooked up by the president's lawyers. That's what that is. But so that people will feel 'OK, well, if he - if he does something wrong, [he] should be able to be indicted.'"

The Justice Department rule has been in place for decades, but has come under scrutiny since former special counsel Robert Mueller cited it in explaining why he declined to recommend bringing obstruction charges against Trump for his alleged efforts to undermine the investigation into Russian election interference. 

"The Founders could never suspect that a president would be so abusive of the Constitution of the United States, that the separation of powers would be irrelevant to him and that he would continue, any president would continue, to withhold facts from the Congress, which are part of the constitutional right of inquiry," Pelosi said.

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) determined in a 1973 memorandum amid the Watergate scandal under former President Nixon that a sitting president cannot be subject to prosecution for federal crimes. 

The OLC concluded that the president's duties "have become so onerous that a President may not be able fully to discharge the powers and duties of his office if he had to defend a criminal prosecution."

A number of Democrats have called for changing the Justice Department policy.

Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee introduced legislation in May that would pause the statute of limitations for any federal offense committed by a sitting president, whether it was committed before or during the president's term.

Democratic presidential contender Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) has also called for enacting a new law "clarifying Congress's intent that the Department of Justice can indict the president of the United States."

Warren also pledged to nominate an attorney general who will "protect the rule of law" and an assistant attorney general in charge of the OLC who would reverse the policy.