Emmanuel Macron, France’s president, speaks during a news conference at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit in Brussels, Belgium. (Photographer: Marlene Awaad/Bloomberg)

Macron Tells Critics to ‘Come Get Him,’ Knowing They Can’t

(Bloomberg) -- Emmanuel Macron may have a thing or two to teach Donald Trump about taunting the opposition when mired in a legal scandal. There’s one key difference: there’s no jeopardy for the French president.

Just before he left on holiday, Macron told critics to “come get him” after it emerged that he didn’t fire Alexandre Benalla nor report the bodyguard to police when the aide was caught on camera manhandling protesters at a Paris rally. Four weeks later, as Macron gets back to work with a cabinet meeting Wednesday, no one has come after him.

No one will, says Olivier Pluen, an expert in constitutional law from the Université de Versailles Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines outside of Paris. He sees Macron’s remarks as posturing given that the Constitution prevents French presidents from being interrogated or prosecuted when in office to preserve the presidential office and the role of head of state that it entails.

“The president -- and therefore Emmanuel Macron -- isn’t liable politically, criminally and civilly,” Pluen said in an interview. “And this absolute lack of responsibility comes with a temporary inviolability” during his term. “No one will thus come get Emmanuel Macron from a legal standpoint.”

Even his final opponent in last year’s presidential election agrees.

Marine Le Pen, leader of far-right National Front, complained in a tweet that Macron’s remarks were “not very fair play when the Constitution -- which we aren’t trying to contest -- protects him precisely from any obligation to be accountable.”

As the U.S. mid-terms approach, Trump finds himself in a less comfortable situation. In spite of his bravado, he hasn’t been able to shake off the prospect of being personally investigated in the Russia probe as the political and legal peril increasingly threatens his presidency. Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen implicated him Tuesday as part of a guilty plea at almost the same moment his former campaign chairman became a convicted felon.

Trump told reporters that Manafort’s conviction “had nothing to do with Russian collusion, so we continue the witch hunt.” The U.S. president had already taken to Twitter Monday morning with a series of posts to slam the investigation as “disgraced and discredited.”

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has shown interest in whether Trump may have obstructed justice by, among other actions, firing James Comey as Federal Bureau of Investigation director in May 2017. It still isn’t clear whether a sitting president can be indicted or prosecuted.

Douglas W. Kmiec, a professor of constitutional law at Pepperdine University in California, says senior American lawyers have deemed it “inconsistent” with the duties of presidential office -- getting in the way of general governance and putting the president in a situation where he, as the nation’s chief law enforcement officer, should prosecute himself.

Still, the matter has never been tested in court, and Erwin Chemerinsky, the law school dean at University of California, Berkeley and lecturer in constitutional law, considers the issue “unresolved.”

“In 1974, the Watergate grand jury named Richard Nixon an unindicted co-conspirator because they did not think they could indict a sitting president,” he said. “Most commentators think a sitting president cannot be indicted, though I disagree.”

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