President Donald Trump’s narrative that hes’s been cleared in the wake of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation concluding is a lie. Hundreds of former federal prosecutors have now banded together to assert that the president’s situation extends far beyond simply the possibility of future prosecutable guilt, asserting that right now, there’s a prosecutable obstruction of justice case. The only element they can find keeping this case from going to trial is standing Justice Department policy against indicting a sitting president, which Mueller cites in his final report.
The prosecutors explain, in a joint letter that’s been signed by almost 400 and counting former officials:
‘As former federal prosecutors, we recognize that prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk. We strongly believe that, but for the OLC memo [against presidential indictment], the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report.’
What a unique position the United States has found itself in to even have to consider this question in the first place. Much to the chagrin of Trump’s allies, the Mueller Report specifically states that it does not exonerate the president, instead opting to outline almost a dozen cases it examined for possible criminal obstruction of justice. In most, the team concluded that the relevant intent to prevent investigative scrutiny of the president and his team was there.
These instances include one particularly high-profile incident involving now former White House counsel Don McGahn that the prosecutors mention in their letter. At one point, Trump tried to have McGahn get Mueller out, and then in the face of scrutiny, sought for the lawyer to produce a memo denying the story. McGahn declined, and eventually left the White House.
During recent Congressional testimony, Attorney General William Barr defended his decision to step in and declare Trump innocent through means like pointing out that maybe Trump wasn’t lying after all if he only wanted McGahn to have someone else do the actual firing. In other words, the attorney general of the United States has taken leave of the English language, no longer acknowledging anything beyond strictly literal meanings of words. What a tough time he must have at Starbucks, where the drink sizes don’t really mean anything in the first place.
He’s claimed that Mueller left the question of whether Trump was guilty of obstruction to him, but there’s no public indication of that. Perhaps cognizant of the holes in his argument, he avoided a planned House Judiciary Committee hearing last week. The panel is now hoping to have Mueller himself testify very soon, most recently aiming for May 15.
Trump has lashed out against the idea of Mueller testifying — which is suspicious at best if he’s as in the clear as he claims. The Trump team has hung onto the idea that obstruction is only prosecutable if there’s an underlying crime, but that’s flatly false. Longtime Trump associate Roger Stone is awaiting a trial right now for a massive obstruction scheme covering up underlying behavior he has not been criminally charged over — and the prosecutors coming together in this new letter suggest Trump deserves the same treatment.
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