Eric Holder: Trump could be prosecuted after leaving office, but at a 'potential cost to the nation'

Former Attorney General Eric Holder said in an interview broadcast Saturday that President Trump could easily be prosecuted for allegedly breaking campaign finance laws after he leaves office, but warned that such a case would come at a "potential cost to the nation."

Holder made the comments during an interview with CNN political commentator David Axelrod. The network published excerpts from the interview before the program aired.

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When Axelrod asked Holder if Trump could be subject to prosecution upon leaving office, Holder answered: "I don't think there's any question about that."

"We already have an indictment in the Southern District of New York where [former Trump attorney] Michael Cohen -- relative to the payoffs, Michael Cohen’s already in jail with regard to his role there," Holder went on.

Cohen is serving a three-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in August of 2018 to tax evasion, making false statements to a bank and violating campaign finance law by arranging payments totaling $280,000 in the last days of the 2016 presidential campaign to silence two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump. Cohen has claimed that Trump directed him to make the payments; the president has denied any wrongdoing.

In this March 4, 2015, file photo, then-Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the Justice Department in Washington.

In this March 4, 2015, file photo, then-Attorney General Eric Holder speaks at the Justice Department in Washington. (AP)

"Individual-1 is the president," said Holder, referring to a sobriquet used in court documents to indicate Trump's name, "and it would seem to me that the next attorney general, the next president, is going to have to make a determination."

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When Axelrod asked about the potential effect of putting Trump on trial, referencing President Gerald Ford's decision to pardon his predecessor Richard Nixon following his resignation in 1974, Holder was more circumspect.

"I think there is a potential cost to the nation by putting on trial a former president, and that ought to at least be a part of the calculus that goes into the determination that has to be made by the next attorney general," he said, adding that while Ford's pardon of Nixon may have cost him the 1976 election, "looking back, I tend to think that that was probably the right thing to do."

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Holder also said that Congress should proceed with an impeachment inquiry, but added, "that doesn't necessarily commit you to actually impeaching the President."

These comments come after a House vote Thursday to formalize the ground rules of its investigation into the possibility of impeachable offenses by President Trump or his associates with regards to Russian collusion.