October 24, 2019

A Proposed Constitutional Amendment

President Trump’s attorneys have argued that the president, while in office, is not only immune to indictment, but also is immune even to investigation for crimes, including, incredibly, shooting someone on Fifth Avenue. (His attorneys actually have argued this in court!) Moreover, the Trump legal team has asserted that this immunity extends even to the president’s commercial enterprises.  To any rational and intelligent person, these arguments are, to put it in technical terms, totally bonkers. Apparently, however, we must wait until the courts officially declare these assertions of immunity invalid before, for example, Mr. Trump’s tax returns can be turned over to authorities investigating possible misdeeds by him.

Before now, one would not have assumed that the president is, for all practical purposes, completely above the law. The courts may make this clear, but it is perhaps time for the matter to be resolved once and for all by constitutional amendment.

In order to clarify that the United States of America has a president and not a king, I propose the following as the 28th amendment to the Constitution:
Universal Administration of Justice
Neither the President, nor the Vice President, nor any other person subject to the jurisdiction of the United States is immune to Investigation, Indictment, or Arrest for just cause except as provided in Article I, Section 6.
Article I, Section 6, Clause 1 says, in part:
[Senators and Representatives] shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same; and for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.
One may quibble about my title, capitalization, and whether the president and vice president deserve any immunity at all. My wording is not cast in stone; I’m sure it can be improved by constitutional scholars.

Passing such an amendment to the Constitution should be straightforward, but, in the present environment, passage may be opposed aggressively by Republicans. Amending the Constitution to assure uniform administration of justice may have to await the reform or destruction of the Republican Party. Let us not forget the matter once that occurs.

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