And Don't Forget, Wingnuts...A Sitting PRESIDENT Can Also Face a Civil Suit...
By Brad Friedman on 10/18/2005, 8:55pm PT  

I was asked today on my weekly appearance on Don Grady's Louisiana Live whether or not a sitting Vice President could be indicted. As far as I knew, the answer was yes.

Dan Froomkin of WaPo's excellent White House Briefing has a few nuggets on precisely that...and a reminder for those old "Rule of Law" Republicans...

Technically and legally, a sitting vice president can be indicted. In fact, there's a precedent.

Not long after he killed Alexander Hamilton in their famous 1804 duel, Vice President Aaron Burr was indicted for murder in both New York and New Jersey. No constitutional crisis ensued.

And as this 2000 Department of Justice memo lays out, the department researched the issue thoroughly in 1973.

Back then, Vice President Spiro T. Agnew was trying to stave off a grand jury investigation into kickback, bribery and tax evasion charges by insisting that he was only answerable to Congress.

After all, only Congress holds the power to remove the president or vice president from office --- and presumably it would be impossible to function as vice president from a jail cell.

But none other that [sic] then-solicitor general Robert Bork concluded that, while "the indictment or criminal prosecution of a sitting President would impermissibly undermine the capacity of the executive branch to perform its constitutionally assigned functions," the vice president was fair game.

The "brief from the solicitor general argued that, while the president was immune from indictment, the vice president was not, since his conviction would not disrupt the workings of the executive branch."

Agnew ended up resigning his office as part of a plea bargain.

Civil suits of course are another story.

Richard Keil wrote in a Bloomberg story yesterday that he had recently spoken to Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Valerie Plame's husband, and Wilson "said that once the criminal questions are settled, he and his wife may file a civil lawsuit against Bush, Cheney and others seeking damages for the alleged harm done to Plame's career.

"If they do so, the current state of the law makes it likely that the suit will be allowed to proceed --- and Bush and Cheney will face questioning under oath --- while they are in office. The reason for that is a unanimous 1997 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruling that Paula Jones' sexual harassment suit against then- President Clinton could go forward immediately, a decision that was hailed by conservatives at the time."

What goes around comes around, wingnuts...