Tag Archives: obstruction of justice

Preparing for the worst, hoping for something . . . better

I know you’ve said it: It’s good to expect the best but prepare for the worst.

So it is with this ongoing investigation being led by the Justice Department’s special counsel, Robert Mueller III. He appears to be wrapping up his lengthy probe into Donald Trump’s conduct as a presidential candidate and as president of the United States.

Mueller’s probe has focused on allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives who attacked our electoral system. It’s also examining possible conspiracy and obstruction of justice matters, too. There might be a violation or two of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which prohibits presidents from accepting gifts from foreign kings, potentates and assorted heads of state.

The media are now reporting that the FBI has looked into whether the president acted as a foreign agent for Russia, our nation’s pre-eminent hostile power. This is frightening stuff.

I won’t call it the “best” outcome, but a better outcome would be if Mueller has uncovered the truth into what many of us have suspected all along, that Trump is inherently corrupt. I suspect Mueller will produce a thorough finding of fact and will deliver it to Congress’s doorstep for full public review, absent the redacted material that deals with national security matters.

The worst outcome will be that he has nothing, that Trump has been right all along, that there is “no collusion.” Why is that the worst? Because none of us is going to hear the end of it from the president. He will be in our faces for as long as he holds office and likely beyond that time. He will launch a torrent of Twitter messages that expound on the “witch hunt” allegation he has been leveling at Mueller.

To be candid, it appears that the likelihood that Mueller comes up empty is diminishing. It looks for all the world that he has something, although what precisely it is remains known only to Mueller and his team of legal eagles.

However, if he does reveal that he has nothing, well . . . we all should be ready. Those of us who are critical of the president have praised Mueller’s professionalism in his pursuit of the truth. If that pursuit produces nothing, then we are dutybound to accept those findings.

I don’t believe that will happen. But if it does . . .

Or … what if Mueller comes up empty?

My previous blog post wondered what Donald J. Trump’s reaction would be if Robert Mueller delivers the goods on collusion, obstruction of justice and anything else he might find wrong with the president and his 2016 campaign.

My conclusion: Trump will go bonkers, nuts, ’round the bend.

In fairness, what might the president do and/or say if the special counsel comes up empty?

My thoughts? I believe Trump is fully capable of climbing onto the White House roof, bullhorn in hand and bellowing “I told you so!” until his voice no longer functions.

OK, I’m kidding.

Sort of …

Trump is incapable, in my humble view, of accepting victory like a gentleman. He doesn’t have the gene that allows him to congratulate Mueller for a job well done, and thank him sincerely for the service he has performed for the country.

No sir. He won’t do that.

If Mueller ends up with nothing, Trump will find a way to make something out of it. Why, he might never shut his mouth for as long as serves in the highest office in the land.

As we’ve learned already, 18 or so months into his presidency, Donald Trump cannot stop boasting about the Electoral College victory he scored over Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Imagine, now, how the president well might react if Mueller and his team come up empty on The Russia Thing.

Yes, presidents can be investigated and indicted

Having offered admittedly muted praise for Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court, I now want to challenge an assertion he has made about whether presidents can be indicted.

He has changed his mind on that one. Kavanaugh once worked for Kenneth Starr while Starr was investigating President Clinton, who eventually got impeached for lying to a grand jury and for — that’s right — obstruction of justice.

Kavanaugh was up to his armpits in assisting the counsel’s task of finding criminality in a president’s behavior.

Then he switched gears. Kavanaugh has since written that presidents have too much to do, too much on their plate to be distracted by potentially criminal investigations. Let me think. Is he providing cover for, oh, the guy who nominated him to the Supreme Court?

Here’s my point.

Of course presidents can be investigated. They aren’t above the law. They must be held to the same standard as their constituents, which is the entire country.

President Clinton was able to perform his presidential duties while he was under investigation and, indeed, while he was being impeached by the House of Representatives and tried by the Senate.

The same is true for President Nixon, who was under investigation for myriad offenses relating to Watergate. The House Judiciary Committee passed articles of impeachment and then the president resigned. Was he able to do his job while all of this was occurring? Of course he was!

My strong hunch is that the Senate Judiciary Committee that will consider Judge Kavanaugh’s nomination will ask him directly and pointedly about what he thought while working for Kenneth Starr and what he thinks these days now that Donald Trump wants him to serve on the highest court in the land.

I hope someone on the panel asks him: What made you change your mind, Judge?

Yes, POTUS can ‘obstruct justice’

I am not a lawyer, but you know that already.

However, I know enough about history to understand this basic truth: Presidents of the United States can “obstruct justice.” Indeed, two of them — Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon — were accused of obstructing justice. One of them got impeached partly on that accusation; the other came within a whisker of being impeached before he resigned the presidency.

Thus, I am baffled in the extreme by lawyers serving the current president who says he cannot obstruct justice because, well, he’s the president. They are saying in effect that Donald J. Trump is above the law.

I beg to differ. I offer a strenuous objection to the notion that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, cannot determine that Trump obstructed justice in the hunt for the truth behind “the Russia thing.”

I don’t quite understand the logic being offered by Trump’s legal team that suggests Mueller cannot accuse the president of obstructing justice. Trump himself has acknowledged on network television that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of “the Russia thing”; then he told Russian visitors to the Oval Office that his dismissal of Comey had relieved him of pressure from the Russia probe and whether the Russian government meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

To my way of thinking, that constitutes at the very least circumstantial evidence of obstruction, but I know that Mueller’s team doesn’t operate on circumstance; it needs hard evidence. Whether it comes up with anything actionable remains to be seen.

As the nation watches this investigation lurch toward some conclusion, many of us are conflicted about the argument being offered that the president can do anything he wants — because he is the president.

Richard Nixon famously told David Frost that very thing, that the president cannot break the law simply by virtue of his office. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee eventually saw it quite differently when it approved articles of impeachment against the president.

I am pretty sure the law hasn’t changed since the 1970s. The current president took the same oath to follow the law that all of his predecessors took. The law in my view allows for presidents to be accused of obstructing justice.

What became of America’s Mayor?

Rudolph Giuliani used to be a revered public figure. He stood tall amid the rubble of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan and rallied a stricken city in the wake of the 9/11 terror attack on the World Trade Center.

Time magazine named him Person of the Year in 2001. It was richly deserved. Giuliani became America’s Mayor.

Then something happened to him. He decided to get involved in national politics. He dressed in drag to spoof something or someone. He ran for the Republican Party presidential nomination in 2008.

Rudy Giuliani has gotten a bit strange. If you saw his shtick at the 2016 Republican National Convention, then you understand my point. If you haven’t seen it, take a look:

His latest gig is as Donald J. Trump’s lawyer, representing the president as he does battle against what he calls the “witch hunt” being conducted by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Giuliani has managed to step all over Trump’s denial about hush money being paid to a porn star; he argues now that the president cannot be subpoenaed or indicted by the special counsel, even if Mueller produces evidence that Trump broke the law.

Giuliani has become a shill. He has behaved in a seriously unattractive manner as he defends the president against Mueller’s investigation in whether Trump obstructed justice or “colluded” with Russians who interfered in our 2016 presidential election.

Honestly, I much prefer the former Rudy Giuliani, the man who faced down terrorists while standing in the rubble.

The “new Rudy” is acting like a clown.

Obstruction of justice, anyone?

The news of the long list of questions special counsel Robert Mueller wants to ask Donald J. Trump hits me hard at two levels.

First things first.

Mueller appears loaded for a deep probe into obstruction of justice, according to the questions obtained by the New York Times. From what I’ve read of the NY Times account of the inquiry, Mueller isn’t looking too carefully into collusion, given that there appears to be no federal statute that covers whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian government officials who meddled in our 2016 presidential election.

He is zeroing in on obstruction and whether the president sought to derail the investigation by pressuring the Justice Department, and former FBI Director James Comey to back off their probe into former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s role in those meetings with the Russians.

The Times also reports that Mueller is looking at the Trump family’s business dealings and whether there is any link between that aspect of the president’s other life and the one he inherited by getting elected president of the United States.

Mueller is known to be a meticulous lawyer. He dots all the “i’s” and crosses all the “t’s” before proceeding.

I hope he is allowed to continue this probe to its conclusion.

The second part of this story is the troubling aspect of the leak that apparently allowed the Times to obtain the questions in the first place.

I am forced to ask: Did someone within the Mueller legal team leak these questions to the media and possibly undermine its integrity?

I hope that’s not the case.

Sessions vs. Dowd over ‘obstruction of justice’?

Donald Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, says the president “cannot obstruct justice” because the law exempts him from doing so.

Dowd said: The “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer … and has every right to express his view of any case.”

Are you clear on that? Me, neither.

Oh, but now we have this tidbit regarding the attorney general of the United States, Jeff Sessions. Nearly two decades ago, when President Bill Clinton was being tried in the U.S. Senate after the House impeached him, Sessions — then a Republican senator from Alabama — said this while making the case to remove the president from office:

“The facts are disturbing and compelling on the president’s intent to obstruct justice.”

There’s more.

“The chief law officer of the land, whose oath of office calls on him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, crossed the line and failed to defend the law, and, in fact, attacked the law and the rights of a fellow citizen.”

Dadgum, man! Who’s right? The president’s personal lawyer or the attorney general?

Dowd is reaching way beyond his — and the president’s — grasp, in my view, in contending that Trump is immune from the obstruction of justice complaint, were it to come from the special counsel probing the Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election.

I disagree with what Sessions said in 1999 about President Clinton, but his statements on the record during that trial put him squarely at odds with what Trump’s personal lawyer is trying to peddle today. If an earlier president can be charged with obstruction of justice, then surely so can the current president face such a charge if one comes forward from the special counsel’s office.

This all begs the question from yours truly: What kind of legal mumbo jumbo is Trump’s lawyer trying to peddle?

Is this a nation of laws … or what?

If I understand Donald John Trump’s lawyer’s rationale correctly about whether the president can “obstruct justice,” I believe I have heard him suggest something quite dangerous and insidious.

John Dowd says the president’s role as chief of the executive branch of the federal government means he “cannot obstruct justice.” The president enjoys protection in Article II of the U.S. Constitution that others don’t get, according to Dowd.

He came to Trump’s defense after the guilty plea came from former national security adviser Michael Flynn over whether Flynn lied to the FBI about meetings with Russian operatives.

What I believe Dowd has said is that Donald Trump, as president, is above the law. He can do or say whatever the hell he wants without facing any criminal penalty, according to Dowd.

Let’s review quickly: President Nixon faced obstruction charges in 1974 when the House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against; President Clinton was impeached in 1998 on a number of allegations, including obstruction of justice.

I believe Trump’s lawyer is, um, wrong!

I also believe John Dowd might be talking himself into some serious trouble, right along with his highly visible legal client.

Actually, POTUS can ‘obstruct justice’

I am not qualified to argue points of law with a lawyer, but I’ll take a brief moment to challenge a political point that Donald J. Trump’s lawyer has asserted about the president of the United States.

John Dowd says that the president “cannot obstruct justice” because “he is the chief law enforcement officer under (the Constitution’s Article II) and has every right to express his view of any case.”

I beg to differ. Dowd is old enough to remember Watergate and the trouble that President Nixon got into when he sought to obstruct justice in that investigation.

Obstruction at issue

Indeed, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee’s articles of impeachment against the president included an accusation of “obstruction of justice.” Nixon was toast at that point.

He chose to resign the presidency rather than face certain impeachment in the House and virtually certain conviction in a Senate trial.

So, can Donald Trump “obstruct justice” if the special counsel determines he did so by firing FBI director James Comey over that “Russia thing”?

I believe he can.

Yes, Newt … the president can ‘obstruct justice’

I am beginning to think Newt Gingrich no longer should be taken seriously.

He’s the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives; at one time he was second in line to be president, right behind the vice president.

Gingrich once voted to impeach President Bill Clinton for, among other things, obstruction of justice. So what does this clown say now? The president cannot commit such a crime because — are you ready? — he’s the president!

The current president, of course, is Donald J. Trump.

Gingrich is an ally of Trump. He has spoken favorably of the president. I get that. However, his remarks to the National Press Club make no sense. He didn’t cite a federal statute that prohibits a criminal indictment against the president. He said that the office protects its occupant from an obstruction of justice charge.

But … didn’t it protect President Clinton? Didn’t it do the same for President Nixon when the U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved articles of impeachment against him for, um, obstruction of justice?

Newt needs a reminder of history. Indeed, he was part of an event that involved a president who he once accused of obstructing justice. If he continues to ignore history and spout the nonsense he keeps spouting about Donald Trump, then he is talking himself out of any relevance to the current political discourse.