FRANKLIN, N.H. – Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand says if elected to the White House, she wouldn’t stand in the way if her Department of Justice wanted to investigate Donald Trump for obstruction of justice.
And the senator from New York told Fox News on Friday that she believes the Republican president’s alleged obstruction of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation “amounts to a crime.”
“As president of the United States, I will restore what’s been lost and that is an independent Department of Justice. They would be able to make that decision independent of me as president,” she said, while campaigning in the first-in-the-nation primary state of New Hampshire.
She becomes the latest 2020 Democratic candidate to at least open the door to a Trump prosecution once he's out of office.
California Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris said this week she believes the only reason Mueller didn’t recommend prosecuting Trump was because of the Justice Department’s policy against indicting a sitting president. In an interview with NPR, Harris said that once out of office, Trump would be subject to charges – and she suggested the Justice Department in a Harris presidency would pursue them.
“I believe that they would have no choice and that they should, yes,” Harris said.
Another 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, said this week that if elected president, he could also support a Justice Department criminal investigation into Trump.
“To the extent that there’s an obstruction case, then yes, DOJ’s got to deal with it,” Buttigieg said in an interview with The Atlantic published Thursday.
But Buttigieg added that he would only take such a step if there was a “credible allegation.”
Mueller spent two years investigating any possible collusion between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia to sway the election toward the GOP nominee at the expense of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.
In his recent report, Mueller detailed extensive contact between the Trump campaign and Moscow. But he did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy. And he didn’t take a clear position on whether the president obstructed justice. Trump himself, in an interview with ABC News, disputed a central allegation from his former White House counsel that he tried to have Mueller removed.
Asked by Fox News whether she believed Trump deserved to be investigated, Gillibrand answered: “Do I believe what he’s done already amounts to a crime? I do.”
And she emphasized that “the American people, no matter what, are entitled to facts, transparency, and accountability.”
Another Democratic presidential candidate, entrepreneur Andrew Yang, disagrees with his rivals.
“If you look around the world, one pattern that America should seek to avoid is prosecuting past leaders and presidents and imprisoning them," Yang told Fox News on Thursday. "That’s something that America has never fallen into and that’s the way I would hope that we proceed with me in the White House.”
Trump, meanwhile, has fired back at Democrats accusing him of a crime -- especially after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week she wants to see him in prison. Speaking Friday to "Fox & Friends," he called her accusation of a "criminal coverup" a "fascist" and "disgraceful" statement.