Did Trump Obstruct Justice? Mueller Didn’t Say, but Left a Trail to the Answer


WASHINGTON — The report by Robert S. Mueller III, the particular counsel, explored about a dozen episodes during which President Trump’s actions raised issues about obstruction of justice.

Mr. Mueller stopped wanting concluding whether or not Mr. Trump dedicated that crime, but the report made clear that others can use the proof to make that decision. Mr. Mueller’s investigators made an indirect reference to potential impeachment proceedings and famous that after Mr. Trump leaves workplace, he’ll lose the momentary immunity the Justice Department says sitting presidents get pleasure from. Mr. Mueller cited that issue as barring him from making accusations now.

The report evaluated the proof primarily based on three standards: The act have to be obstructive, linked to an investigation and undertaken with a corrupt motive. Investigators additionally explored countervailing proof that Mr. Trump’s attorneys may use to argue that the acts fell wanting a crime.

Mr. Mueller additionally devoted over a dozen pages to rebutting a sweeping argument provided by Mr. Trump’s attorneys — and Attorney General William P. Barr, who has stated he believes Mr. Trump didn’t violate obstruction legal guidelines: that Congress can’t make it a crime for a president to abuse his official powers to impede an investigation.

Mr. Trump’s attempt to fire Mr. Mueller came to light in news reports in January 2018. Mr. Trump repeatedly pushed Mr. McGahn to state that the president had not directed him to fire Mr. Mueller and to write a memo “for our records” denying the reports. Although Mr. Trump threatened to fire him if he did not comply, Mr. McGahn refused, saying the articles were accurate. [Vol. 2, Pages 113-120]

Obstructive?

Potentially. By pushing Mr. McGahn to issue a statement and create a written record denying facts that he knew Mr. McGahn believed to be true, Mr. Trump’s action “would qualify as an obstructive act if it had the natural tendency to constrain McGahn from testifying truthfully or to undermine his credibility as a potential witness if he testified consistently with his memory, rather than with what the record said.”

Linked to an investigation?

Yes. Mr. Trump knew that Mr. McGahn had already told investigators about the firing attempt and was likely to talk to them again, and his push for an internal memo “indicates the president was not focused solely on a press strategy, but instead likely contemplated the ongoing investigation and any proceedings arising from it.”

Improper intent?

Yes. “Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the special counsel terminated, the president acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the president’s conduct towards the investigation.”

Bottom line: The report suggests there is sufficiently plausible evidence to ask a grand jury to consider charging Mr. Trump with attempted obstruction.


Obstructive?

Potentially. Mr. Trump’s directives “indicate that Sessions was being instructed to tell the special counsel to end the existing investigation into the president and his campaign.”

Linked to an investigation?

Yes. It was public knowledge by then that Mr. Mueller was working with a grand jury.

Improper intent?

Yes. “Substantial evidence” indicates that Mr. Trump was trying “to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the president’s and his campaign’s conduct.” Reaching out to Mr. Sessions surreptitiously via an outside loyalist rather than relying on official White House channels “provides additional evidence of his intent.”

Bottom line: The report suggests there is sufficiently plausible evidence to ask a grand jury to consider charging Mr. Trump with attempted obstruction.


Linked to an investigation?

Yes. The report cited reasons Mr. Trump could have reasonably foreseen that the Flynn investigation was likely to lead to a grand jury inquiry or prosecution.

Improper intent?

Unclear. While clearing the room made Mr. Trump look furtive, the report said the investigation failed to gather conclusive evidence that the president had any personal stake in the outcome of an investigation into Mr. Flynn. For example, it remains unclear whether Mr. Trump was implicated in Mr. Flynn’s lies, and the evidence did “not establish that Flynn otherwise possessed information damaging to the president that would give the president a personal incentive to end the F.B.I.’s inquiry into Flynn’s conduct.”

Bottom line: The report appears to raise doubts that the investigation found sufficient evidence establishing Mr. Trump’s intent to move forward with an obstruction charge.


In May 2017, Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey. The White House initially claimed he had done so on the recommendation of senior Justice Department officials who were critical of Mr. Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation, but Mr. Trump soon admitted he had already made the decision and was instead thinking about the Russia investigation. [Reference: Vol. 2, Pages 62-77]

Obstructive?

Unclear. While the firing allowed Mr. Trump to nominate someone else to take over the agency investigating links between his campaign and Russia, the inquiry continued and its day-to-day managers were several layers below. The report stated: “The anticipated effect of removing the F.B.I. director, however, would not necessarily be to prevent or impede the F.B.I. from continuing its investigation.”

Linked to an investigation?

Yes. Mr. Comey had announced that the F.B.I. was investigating Russia’s interference in the election, including links between Russia and the Trump campaign, and Mr. Trump knew that Mr. Flynn was still under a criminal investigation despite having urged Mr. Comey to let Mr. Flynn go.

Improper intent?

Unclear. The report cites “substantial evidence” that the catalyst was Mr. Trump’s frustration that Mr. Comey would not publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation. But it reached no clear answer about the nature of Mr. Trump’s underlying motive: “The initial reliance on a pretextual justification could support an inference that the president had concerns about providing the real reason for the firing, although the evidence does not resolve whether those concerns were personal, political or both.”

Bottom line: The report’s analysis suggests that it would be difficult to establish at least two of the three elements necessary to ask a grand jury to charge Mr. Trump with obstruction for firing Mr. Comey.



Source link Nytimes.com

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