For many Democrats, the aftermath of the Mueller report raised one central question: Would Robert S. Mueller III have charged President Trump with a crime if Justice Department policy had not prevented him from doing so?
On Friday, Senator Elizabeth Warren said the answer was yes.
Ms. Warren, who is seeking the Democratic nomination for president, proposed legislation she said was aimed at ensuring that “no President is above the law.” She called on Congress to pass a law clarifying that the Justice Department can in fact indict the president of the United States, while also renewing her call to begin impeachment proceedings against Mr. Trump.
“Mueller’s statement made clear what those of us who have read his report already knew: He’s referring Donald Trump for impeachment, and it’s up to Congress to act,” she said in a post on Medium.
“But impeachment isn’t supposed to be the only way that a President can be held accountable for committing a crime,” she said. “Congress should make it clear that Presidents can be indicted for criminal activity, including obstruction of justice. And when I’m President, I’ll appoint Justice Department officials who will reverse flawed policies so no President is shielded from criminal accountability.”
Ms. Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, made her pitch two days after Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, broke his silence about his two-year investigation of Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election. At a brief news conference on Wednesday, he declined to clear Mr. Trump of obstruction of justice.
“If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so,” Mr. Mueller said. He also explicitly noted that while Justice Department policy prohibits charging a sitting president with a crime, the Constitution provides another mechanism to formally accuse a president of wrongdoing — a clear reference to the ability of Congress to conduct impeachment proceedings.
Ms. Warren came out in favor of impeachment about a day after the Mueller report was released on April 18 — much more quickly than many of her competitors for the Democratic nomination, who treaded carefully around the issue for days.
While Mr. Mueller’s statement this week coaxed a larger share of the primary field into endorsing or at least strongly considering impeachment proceedings, Democratic House leaders such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi have been far more reluctant, instead reiterating the importance of having the special counsel testify before Congress.
The total number of House members in favor of an impeachment inquiry is now above 40, but Ms. Pelosi has insisted that it is necessary to build an “ironclad case” before heading down that road.
Ms. Warren has also leveled sharp criticism at Attorney General William P. Barr for his handling of the report’s release. She renewed that critique on Friday, saying Mr. Barr had “disgraced himself by acting like Trump’s personal defense attorney” while also pledging to “appoint an Attorney General who will protect the rule of law.”
Ms. Warren said that if elected president, she would appoint an assistant attorney general in charge of the Office of Legal Counsel who would reverse the opinion that argues that the president cannot be indicted. And she also said she would amend obstruction of justice statutes so that they would explicitly allow for indictment when a president abuses the powers of the office.
“If Donald Trump were anyone other than the President of the United States, he would be in handcuffs and indicted,” she said.
“No matter what he may think, Donald Trump is not a King,” Ms. Warren added. “No President is. And our democracy only works if everyone can be held accountable.”