A sitting U.S. president can not be indicted for federal crimes as a matter of constitutional separation of powers and DOJ policy, among other reasons.

The president's constitutional protections and powers (e.g., pardon power, etc.) do not extend to the state level. For example, POTUS can pardon people (including himself) on federal crimes. But can not pardon people for state crimes.

Now imagine a scenario where a POTUS, while sitting in office, is indicted by a particular state Attorney General for a crime, say murder, under state statutes. In that scenario, can POTUS be tried, convicted and jailed for those crimes without being impeached?

As a practical matter, could it actually happen? How would it actually play out given the supremacy clause and other practical considerations of jailing the chief federal executive?


I do not think this question is a duplicate of Can a sitting president of the United States be indicted by one of the states?. That question is limited to the issue of indictment only. This question assumes indictment powers and deals with trial, conviction and, most notably, imprisonment. Given the existing answer to that question, these differences seem relevant and could lead to different or more qualifications on the existing answer.

And, finally and perhaps more importantly, this question also seeks to extract the details of the logistics of how an arrest and/or jailing and imprisonment might or might not be feasible and/or actually occur.

  • Setting aside DOJ policy, could you please provide a case law citation to support your assertion that the sitting US president is shielded from federal prosecution? – BobE Aug 24 '18 at 2:23
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    @BobE: There is no case law yet. U.S. v Nixon (1974) ordered production of evidence (e.g., tapes) but never resolved the question of indictment. It's pretty much a detente of mutual understanding at this point. i.e., Meuller has said he won't indict Trump. – Mowzer Aug 24 '18 at 3:02
  • I could not find an actual statement from Meuller in your WAPO citation (you realize it is an opinion piece), however the 1973 memo is interesting reading [ fas.org/irp/agency/doj/olc/092473.pdf ] however, it is an argument - not case law. As I understand it, Rosenstein has authority over Meuller. Has Rosenstein made any announcement that he would not permit Meuller to indict? Your question is of course interesting (re: State charges etc), and It was not my intention to distract from that. – BobE Aug 24 '18 at 4:43
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    Well, the current answer to the linked question says it's unresolved whether the president could be indicted by a state. It's certainly never been tested. So questions about conviction or imprisonment would seem to be even fuzzier. And the question as to what would happen in practice takes us into the realm of pure speculation. I think you're going to get the same answer as to the indictment question: "nobody really knows". – Nate Eldredge Aug 24 '18 at 5:54

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