Daily D’oh: Is the President Allowed to Obstruct Justice?

There is so much breaking news lately on the ever-widening allegations about Russian ties to the Trump campaign that it can be difficult to keep track of everything. With that in mind, we’ve created what we’re calling “The Daily D’oh!” to help you stay up-to-date on President Trump and the rest of the White House staff as more news emerges about Russia, James ComeyRobert Mueller, special investigations and everything else related to this ongoing crisis…

 

♦ Trump Tweets Himself Into Trouble

President Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to comment on the news that former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn had pled guilty to lying to the FBI as part of Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller’s investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. From the Washington Post:

On Saturday, Trump tweeted this about his former national security adviser: “I had to fire General (Michael) Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.

Legal experts said this could be used as evidence that the president was trying to obstruct justice when he allegedly asked James Comey to take it easy on Flynn and then, when he didn’t, fired him as FBI director.

On Sunday, Trump’s personal lawyer claimed responsibility for writing the tweet — which he called sloppy. John Dowd clarified that the president knew in late January that Flynn had probably given FBI agents the same inaccurate account he provided to Vice President Pence about a call with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

“Dowd said the information was passed to Trump by White House counsel Donald McGahn, who had been warned about Flynn’s statement to the vice president by a senior Justice Department official,” Carol D. Leonnig, John Wagner and Ellen Nakashima reported last night. “A person close to the White House involved in the case termed the Saturday tweet ‘a screw-up of historic proportions’ that has ‘caused enormous consternation in the White House.’

♦ It’s Cool, Because Trump is Totally Allowed to Obstruct Justice

Team Trump floated an interesting legal theory in an interview with Axios.com on Monday:

John Dowd, President Trump’s outside lawyer, outlined to me a new and highly controversial defense/theory in the Russia probe: A president cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice.

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,” Dowd claims.

♦ Wait, Really?

There may not be a completely clear answer on whether the President of the United States is actually allowed to obstruct justice, but legal experts doubt that idea:

From CNN:

Whether a president can be criminally charged — for any offense — has never been tested in the courts. But presidents have been subject to obstruction-of-justice charges in impeachment proceedings. And there is no question that a president can be removed for, as the US Constitution dictates, any “high crimes and misdemeanors.”

Unlike a criminal case heard by a judge or jury, impeachment is a political process that comes down to votes: a majority in the US House of Representatives to impeach and a two-thirds vote of the US Senate to convict. Yet both sets of proceedings can follow the kind of special counsel investigation now underway. Comparisons to the Nixon scandal have been rife recent months. In Watergate, Nixon was not criminally charged but was named as an unindicted co-conspirator and pressured to resign with impeachment charges looming.

Which leads us back to that Axios.com story:

Remember: The Articles of Impeachment against Nixon began by saying he “obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.”

And per a different story from the Washington Post, we may be close to answering this thorny question one way or the other:

Of course, no president has actually been removed from office via impeachment, so this is still a legal question that is unresolved. That means whatever the answer, Trump could be the one to answer it thanks to his own missteps.

“For years, professors have engaged in a type of professorial parlor game of unanswered questions ranging from the definition of ’emoluments’ to prosecuting a president in office to charging a president with obstruction,” Constitutional expert Jonathan Turley said.

He added: “To its great peril, the Trump administration seems intent on answering each of these questions.”

Alrighty, then.

13 Community Comments, Facebook Comments

  1. Pseudonymous says:

    Well, let's ask the nation's chief law enforcement official.

    Sessions argued in Clinton impeachment that presidents can obstruct justice

    In 1999, Sessions – then an Alabama senator – laid out an impassioned case for President Bill Clinton to be removed from office based on the argument that Clinton obstructed justice amid the investigation into his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

    “The facts are disturbing and compelling on the President's intent to obstruct justice,” he said, according to remarks in the congressional record.

  2. Genghis says:

    “To its great peril, the Trump administration seems intent on answering each of these questions.”

     

    I lubs me some Jonathan Turley.

  3. gertie97 says:

    It's Nixonian.

    “It's not illegal if the president does it.''

     

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