President Donald Trump and his legal team seem, at times, to be desperate for him to be somehow able to avoid having to sit for an interview with Special Counsel for the Russia investigation Robert Mueller’s office. That interview is set to cover topics including the question of whether or not the president is guilty of obstruction of justice, which is where the president’s legal team’s concerns are focused.
Such is revealed by a new report from The New York Times about a lengthy letter the president’s lawyers sent Mueller earlier this year outlining their argument against the obstruction of justice allegations. Those allegations are founded on instances like that of the president having sought to have FBI Director James Comey lay off Michael Flynn and Comey’s eventual firing. In all, according to the report, there are some sixteen areas of concern surrounding the question of whether or not Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.
The president’s legal team argued to Mueller that it’s impossible for him to be guilty of such a crime, no matter what he did. In the course of their argument, they actually admitted to behavior that the president has denied in the past, treating it as fact that he placed the aforementioned pressure on Comey.
Even still, they insist, it’s impossible for the president to be guilty of obstruction of justice — thanks to the powers granted to him by the Constitution.
In reality, the twenty page letter’s argument is not exactly founded on reality. The question of whether or not a president can be guilty of obstructing justice has never really fully been answered. Although yes, the president has broad power, the Supreme Court has also ruled that Congress may impose certain restrictions on that power when it comes to issues like the firing of certain officials.
As Bush era DOJ official Jack Goldsmith put it:
‘We don’t know what the law is on the intersection between the obstruction statutes and the president exercising his constitutional power to supervise an investigation in the Justice Department. It’s an open question.’
Besides the argument that the president can’t be considered guilty of obstructing justice in the first place, the president’s legal team also argued against the appropriateness of Mueller’s office interviewing the president at all. Their idea was that he’s so busy he doesn’t even have the time to properly prepare for an interview — although his supposed continuous flurry of activity certainly doesn’t seem to ever impede his tweeting or golfing.
Trump, at Camp David today, was said to be working on North Korea summit prep pic.twitter.com/OU7JahKwIK
— Manu Raju (@mkraju) June 2, 2018
In a particularly memorable passage, the president’s legal team wrote:
‘The president’s prime function as the chief executive ought not be hampered by requests for interview. Having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world.’
That’s just funny. There are a whole host of behaviors that the president indulges in that “demean the office of the president before the world.” The behaviors range from his incessant incendiary language in public statements to policy moves like the tariffs he recently slapped our allies with.
Making the president follow the law does not demean the office of the president the way any of that does.
Even still, how this whole ordeal plays out remains to be seen.
Featured Image via Chris Kleponis/Pool via Bloomberg