January 6, 2018


Did Trump Obstruct Justice? (BARRY BERKE, NOAH BOOKBINDER and NORMAN L. EISENJAN. 5, 2018, NY Times)

We now know, for example, that the president took aggressive steps to prevent Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Justice Department's investigation because he needed Mr. Sessions to protect and safeguard him, as he believed Eric Holder Jr. and Robert Kennedy did for their presidents. This shows that from the outset the president was concerned that he needed protection from the impact of any investigation. In fact, when the president's efforts were unsuccessful, he purportedly responded by saying, "Where's my Roy Cohn?" perhaps suggesting that Mr. Trump wanted the attorney general of the United States to act as his personal criminal defense lawyer -- a startling view into his state of mind.

Equally significant are new revelations that the president had drafted a letter to the F.B.I. director at the time, James Comey, describing the Russian investigation as "fabricated and politically motivated." Those disclosures support that the president's statements to the press and the public in connection with firing Mr. Comey were misleading. The president, of course, publicly claimed that Mr. Comey was fired because of his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton's emails. This matters because attempts to cover up the truth are classic indicators of a culpable state of mind under the obstruction statutes.

In this same vein, the Wolff book claims that the president's lawyers believed that his efforts aboard Air Force One last summer to shape his son Donald Jr.'s statement about a meeting at Trump Tower with Russians was "an explicit attempt to throw sand into the investigation's gears." Mr. Wolff also asserts that one of Mr. Trump's spokesmen quit over the incident because of a concern that it was obstruction of justice. That was a wise move. If the president knowingly caused his son to make a false statement to interfere with the investigations or cover up the facts, that alone could constitute obstruction of justice.

Another ominous note for the president is The Times's reporting that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has substantiated Mr. Comey's narrative of his dealings with the president, including through notes maintained by members of the White House staff. Whatever one may think of some of Mr. Comey's decisions, he has a spotless reputation for candor. The president's reputation is the opposite. But in a swearing contest between two witnesses, a responsible prosecutor looks for independent corroboration no matter who those witnesses are. It seems Mr. Mueller is finding it.

Posted by at January 6, 2018 11:31 AM