It is a constitutional question without a clear answer: Can a sitting American president be charged with a crime?

The question has new importance as special counsel Robert Mueller investigates the Trump 2016 presidential campaign. He is looking into possible connections between the campaign and Russians who reportedly interfered in the 2016 election.
正值特别顾问罗伯特·穆勒(Robert Mueller)调查川普2016年总统竞选之际,这个问题有了新的重要意义。穆勒正在调查川普竞选团队同据传干涉2016年美国大选的俄罗斯人之间可能存在的联系。

Last week, it was reported that Mueller is using a grand jury as part of his investigation. Grand juries decide if government investigators may legally demand private records and information from witnesses. There was no information about when—or whether—Mueller would bring criminal charges in the case.

On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that federal investigators searched and gathered evidence from the house of Paul Manafort, a Trump campaign manager.
华盛顿邮报周三报道称,联邦调查人员搜查了川普的竞选经理保罗·马纳福特(Paul Manafort)的私宅,并从中收集了证据。

Mueller can prosecute any federal crimes linked to the investigation. In theory, that could include legal action against the president. Mueller is reportedly investigating if Trump obstructed justice when he dismissed James Comey as director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
穆勒可以起诉跟调查相关的任何联邦犯罪。在理论上来说,这包括对总统采取法律行动。据报道,穆勒正在调查川普解雇联邦调查局局长詹姆斯·科米(James Comey)是否妨碍司法公正。

If Mueller's team decides to bring charges against Trump, it could create a legal battle -- one that could likely end at the Supreme Court.

The Constitution lists conditions under which a president can be impeached and removed from office.

But the Constitution does not directly say whether the president can be prosecuted, or tried for a crime. Also, federal law does not say whether a president can be prosecuted. Courts have never ruled on the issue.

Eric Freedman teaches constitutional law at Hofstra University in New York. He says legal opinion is divided as to whether a sitting president can be charged with a crime.
埃里克·弗里德曼(Eric Freedman)在纽约霍夫斯特拉大学教授宪法。他说,对现任总统是否可以被起诉存在法律观点上的分歧。

"It's an important and unsettled question," says Freedman. He says the possibility of legal charges is another way to keep presidents answerable for their actions.

Those who believe a sitting president is protected from criminal charges say it comes down to governing the country. A criminal charge, they say, could prevent presidents from carrying out their duties. That would damage the ability of the government to work. They say this is an understood constitutional principle.

Others argue that the Constitution would include clear terms of such legal protection for the president if that is what its creators had wanted. These experts also argue that the Constitution clearly states no person is above the law.

Kenneth Starr agrees with this view. He was the independent counsel who investigated former President Bill Clinton.
肯尼斯·斯塔尔(Kenneth Starr)同意这一观点。斯塔尔是调查前任总统比尔·克林顿(Bill Clinton)的独立检察官。

In a Starr office memo recently uncovered by The New York Times, Starr said it is right, constitutional, and legal for a president to be charged for serious crimes that are not part of the president's official duties.

"In this country," he wrote, "no one, even President Clinton, is above the law."


Impeachment is the process by which Congress brings charges against the president. It means Congress is the court that tries the president.

Impeachment is a political, not legal, process, according to James Pfiffner, a public policy professor at George Mason University. He believes impeachment is the best way constitutionally to hold a president accountable.
乔治梅森大学的公共政策教授詹姆斯·菲菲纳(James Pfiffner)表示,弹劾是一项政治进程,而不是法律进程。他认为弹劾是让总统承担责任的最合乎宪法规定的方式。

The Constitution says reasons to impeach a president include "treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors." Congress alone has the power to decide what that means.

What does it take to impeach a president?

A majority of lawmakers in the House of Representatives must agree on impeachment for it to happen. The Senate then holds a trial. And a president could be removed from office if two-thirds of the Senate agree the president is guilty.

Only two American presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives - Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson. The Senate ruled not guilty in both cases.
美国历史上只有两位总统受到了众议院的弹劾,那就是比尔·克林顿(Bill Clinton)和安德鲁·约翰逊(Andrew Johnson)。这两起弹劾案都被参议院裁定无罪。

President Richard Nixon was facing possible impeachment when he resigned. The next president, Gerald Ford, pardoned Nixon after he left office. As a result, the former president could not face criminal charges.
理查德·尼克松(Richard Nixon)在辞职时面临着可能的弹劾。下一任总统杰拉尔德·福特(Gerald Ford)在尼克松辞职后赦免了他。因此,这位前任总统不会面临刑事指控。


Now, some are questioning if a sitting president could pardon him or herself. Last month, The Washington Post reported that President Trump had asked his lawyers about such a possibility, although his lawyer denied the newspaper story.

It appears the Constitution would permit a sitting president to pardon anyone for any crime at any time.

I'm Caty Weaver.

And I'm Anne Ball.