The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee on Wednesday said sitting officials can be impeached for prior criminal conduct, citing a recent legal precedent.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) made the remarks after he was asked at a Washington event at the Brookings Institution about whether a sitting president can be prosecuted for federal crimes that he or she committed before taking office.
Schiff pointed to a 2010 case in which the Senate voted to impeach Thomas Porteous Jr., who was a Louisiana federal district court judge at the time.
Schiff said the Senate convicted him on four articles of impeachment — articles he noted would be “relevant to modern times.” The counts included one based purely on prior conduct and another for lying under oath during a Senate confirmation.
“On an overwhelming basis, the Senate convicted [him] on all those articles including those two,” Schiff said.
“We now, by constitutional terms — in a country that rarely has impeachment trials — have a precedent that you can be impeached and removed from office both for prior crimes and for lying under oath,” the California lawmaker added.
Schiff, who tried the Porteous impeachment case, emphasized that this particular notion of trying a sitting official for past criminal conduct is “not an open question,” despite people claiming it is on television talk shows.
“This had me yelling me at the TV set, which I rarely do,” he joked.
Porteous became the eighth federal judge to be impeached and removed from office, and the first in more than two decades.