Yeomans: ‘No Indictment’ Doesn’t Mean No Trouble for Trump

Press Release


WASHINGTON, D.C., May 17, 2018  – In the latest edition of Yeomans Work, AFJ Goldfarb Fellow for Justice Bill Yeomans notes that presidential advisor Rudy Giuliani has declared that Robert Mueller will not prosecute President Trump in the Russia investigation.  Yeomans notes that this “reflects the consensus view that Mueller will adhere to Justice Department legal policy, which precludes indictment of a sitting president.” At the same time, however, he writes that this does not mean Trump is free from any legal jeopardy. For one thing, he writes, “it bears emphasis that a president can be indicted after leaving office, whether through resignation, impeachment, or loss of an election.”

Other possibilities loom, though they are remote. For example, Yeomans says, some have suggested “that regardless of whether Mueller would indict Trump, state prosecutors would be able to do so.”  In addition, “Sen. Richard Blumenthal, among others, has opined that even if we accept that a sitting president cannot be tried for criminal violations, he can be indicted while in office and tried after he leaves office.”  Yeomans writes that both approaches are too flawed to be likely, but there remains an option for the grand jury to name Trump, for now, as an unindicted co-conspirator. As Yeomans observes, “The grand jury named Nixon as one and the grand jury could do the same with Trump.”

As for whether Trump might decide to pardon himself if faced with prosecution one day, Yeomans is skeptical. Trump could certainly pardon all his associates. “No president, however, has ever attempted to pardon himself,” Yeomans observes, “and I suspect a court would find such a pardon a bridge too far.”

Yeomans Work focuses on the challenges to the justice system in the era of Trump. Bill Yeomans is available for media interviews. Contact Laurie Kinney, Communications Director, at laurie@afj.org or 202-464-7367.