Constitutional FAQ Answer #88
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Q88. "Can a sitting President be convicted of a
criminal offense? Or, must he be impeached first, then tried?"
A. There is no easy answer to the question, as it is a matter of
interpretation. I think most Constitutional scholars would agree that the
notion of separation of powers prevents the President, and perhaps the Vice
President, from being prosecuted in criminal court while in office. So for a
conviction, the President would have to either be removed from office, or the
trial would have to wait until his term expired. Where there is less certainty
is if a sitting President can be indicted while in office. In 1999, there were
rumors that President Clinton might be indicted by Independent Council Kenneth
Starr while Clinton was still in office, but this never came about.