Obstruction of Justice

The actions prompting accusations of the Trump Administration engaging in obstruction are as numerous as they are clearly intended to interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation. Firing the three people investigating his campaign, the threat of firing the fourth (Mueller) along with the personal attacks and thinly described threats, the constant public attacks on the rule of law… these are obvious acts of obstruction. The only issue is meeting the legal criteria, which Trump ought to be rejoicing in, because motive is an element of the crime. Already apologists of the president are defending his motives, not his actions. Paul Ryan suggests that Trump asked Comey to stop a criminal investigation because he is “new to Washington and doesn’t know the long-established protocols”. Forget about the fact that Trump asked everyone else to leave the room before he talked with Comey, suggesting knowledge that he was doing something wrong. Forget the fact that Trump has repeatedly ignored both the advice of his own lawyers, let alone common sense to tweet admissions and threats.

Another line of defense emerging is shaping public perception that the legal process is just a political process. Trump attacks judges as well as the rulings of judges. The normal process of law is being characterized as a “witch hunt”. The net effect of this line of defense is ominous, no matter how you look at it. There is a valid fear that Trump and his apologists are actually attacking the rule of law and if obstruction charges are filed then there will be an attempt to use mob law to cower House members faced with a choice for impeachment. They claim there is “no evidence” of collusion, but there is a lot of circumstantial evidence and there must be credible, direct evidence to convene the Grand Jury. The fact that investigators are not releasing the evidence and that they are following legal protocols should be reassuring to Trump supporters, but they are exploiting the legal process to whip us the popular opinion that “there is no evidence”.

It is early in the process of investigations, but the fact that the administration is unwilling to allow the legal process to unfold and is already attacking investigators before the investigation in itself suggests obstruction, if not a guilty frame of mind. The danger of what Republicans are doing now is that they are eroding the trust in the rule of law, which ultimately may do more damage to the country than any impeachment.

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