Would U.S. Follow Egypt, Brazil, Sudan, And Argentina In Prosecuting Former Presidents?

Written by Dana Sanchez
prosecuting former presidents
President Donald Trump speaks during a event on medical billing in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

The U.S. may not be in the habit of prosecuting former presidents or sitting ones, but there are plenty of countries that do it.

A long-standing Justice Department protocol dating back to Watergate holds that a sitting U.S. president can’t be indicted when in office. That could change as soon as President Donald Trump transitions from sitting president to former president, Politico reported.

The idea is growing more popular that Trump can be prosecuted for obstruction of justice if he is not re-elected president next year — an idea that is “perhaps myth as much as aspiration,” according to Salon.

Trump has a special incentive to win the 2020 elections by any means. If he loses, he could end up in jail.

Possible charges of obstruction of justice relate to Trump’s effort to stop the special counsel’s office from investigating his campaign’s ties to Russia.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has consistently refused to start impeachment proceedings against Trump. “I don’t want to see him impeached. I want to see him in prison,” Pelosi said in a closed meeting, as reported by Politico.

“The scenario she describes is very possible,” according to NY magazine.

Prosecuting former presidents

A growing list of sitting and former presidents are in jail or facing charges, including. Here’s a rundown of some of them:


Egypt’s first democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi died Monday while in the courtroom, facing charges including murder, spying for Hamas and Hezbollah, insulting the judiciary, involvement in terrorism and breaking out of jail. Morsi was charged after the 2013 military coup during the Arab Spring.


Argentina’s ex-President Cristina Kirchner faces corruption charges but that hasn’t stopped her from running for vice president in 2019, which means she could be back in power in October. The country is struggling with power outages and unpopular austerity measures, including reduced subsidies. Elected in 2015, Argentine President Mauricio Macri hasn’t fixed the ailing economy, which is enduring a recession and increasing inflation.

Kirchner was a champion of human rights, and pushed for trials of military personnel involved in the Dirty War. There have been more than 500 people sentenced, and 1,000 convicted, in a process that was unprecedented in Latin America.


Brazil’s former President Michel Temer has been arrested twice on corruption charges over a far-reaching investigation called the Car Wash probe. This scandal took down top politicians and businessmen charged with money laundering and kickbacks. Brazil’s sitting presidents have
immunity from prosecution. Temer’s immunity ended when he left office Jan. 1.


Sudan’s former President Omar al-Bashir has been charged with corruption-related offenses after being overthrown in April. The military removed him from power after months of mass protests against his 30-year rule. Demonstrations began in December 2018 after the government introduced austerity measures including cuts to bread and fuel subsidies and a currency devaluation to prevent economic collapse.

He faces charges of “possessing foreign currency and acquiring suspicious and illicit wealth”, according to the SUNA news agency, Al Jazeera reported.

Here’s a breakdown of 10 current and former heads of state in prison or awaiting trial in Latin America, from Americas Quarterly.