STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

Trump's call to end Mueller probe reignites obstruction question

For months, President Donald Trump has relentlessly attacked the Russia probe, and his missive Wednesday say...

Posted: Aug 2, 2018 8:59 AM
Updated: Aug 2, 2018 8:59 AM

For months, President Donald Trump has relentlessly attacked the Russia probe, and his missive Wednesday saying Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop the investigation reignited the question of whether Trump's actions would constitute obstruction of justice.

Soon after becoming President, Trump asked then-FBI Director James Comey to stop investigating former national security adviser Michael Flynn, according to Comey. Trump later fired Comey, and said Russia had been on his mind when he made the decision. After special counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 US election, Trump apparently considered firing Mueller.

2016 Presidential election

Companies

Continents and regions

Crime, law enforcement and corrections

Criminal offenses

Donald Trump

Eastern Europe

Elections (by type)

Elections and campaigns

Europe

Government and public administration

Government bodies and offices

Government organizations - US

Impeachment

Investigations

Jeff Sessions

Paul Manafort

Political candidates

Political Figures - US

Political scandals

Politics

Robert Mueller

Russia

Russia meddling investigation

Scandals

Twitter

US Congress

US Federal elections

US federal government

US House of Representatives

US Presidential elections

White House

Now as Mueller's first trial is underway, of the President's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, Trump has ramped up calls to end the whole probe. "This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further," Trump tweeted.

As Mueller has been investigating Russian interference and any links between the Russian government and the Trump campaign, his team is also exploring whether Trump has attempted to obstruct the investigation.

Yet prosecutors say obstruction is not a clear-cut matter and corrupt "intent" would have to be proved. And ultimately, Trump's actions might not be tested in a court of law but rather in the chambers of Congress. The traditional venue for action against presidential wrongdoing is the impeachment process, where it would fall to the House and Senate to determine whether Trump's actions warrant punishment.

Trump's tweets prompted an immediate response from Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, who said on Twitter that the demand from the President "is an attempt to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight" and added, "America must never accept it."

Sessions last year recused himself from the investigation related to Trump's 2016 presidential campaign. (Sessions had earlier failed to disclose during his Senate confirmation hearing contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington.) Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller as special counsel to look into the Russian interference and any Trump campaign officials' involvement.

Trump has repeatedly denied any connections and has also said there has not been any obstruction. As Manafort's trial began this week, the President repeated his "there was no collusion" mantra. Earlier this week Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani said on CNN that Trump would not be found "colluding" with the Russians.

Yet as much as the word "collusion" has been invoked to describe possible complicity between Trump associates and Russian operatives, there is no federal crime of "collusion" in this kind of investigation.

The crimes that might be charged would be conspiracy, making false statements, destruction of evidence or obstruction of justice.

That last offense covers any attempt by someone to "influence, obstruct, or impede" the "due administration of justice." The key question in a criminal case is whether the individual acted with a corrupt intent.

Former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst Renato Mariotti suggested that special counsel investigators may view Trump's directive to Sessions as evidence of such corrupt intent.

"They think this is more evidence of corrupt intent. I think that the Mueller team is adding more tabs to their exhibit binder," Mariotti told CNN's Kate Bolduan on "At This Hour" in response to a question about what Mueller's team might think about the latest tweets. He added that "what these tweets are are presidential statements."

Mariotti cautioned that he did not think the tweet would be used by Mueller as the specific basis for an "obstructive act," but said that "today's tweet is a very, very strong indicator that the President is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that he and his friends are protected from the investigation."

Giuliani attempted to downplay the President's tweet on Wednesday by saying it was not a presidential order.

"The President was expressing his opinion on his favored medium for asserting his First Amendment right of free speech," Giuliani told CNN's Dana Bash. "He said 'should', not 'must', and no presidential order was issued or will be."

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders echoed that interpretation, telling reporters that Trump "wants to see it come to an end, as he has stated many times, and we look forward to that happening." She added, "The President is not obstructing. He's fighting back."

Congress' job?

As legal analysts have noted, Trump's efforts to stop the Russia probe would be more likely tested in Congress than in the courts.

Department of Justice opinions dating to the 1970s and the Watergate era conclude that a president cannot be indicted. (The Supreme Court has never ruled on the question.) So, traditionally, the avenue for charges against a President is the impeachment process, as happened with Richard Nixon in the 1970s and Bill Clinton in the 1990s.

Impeachment is political and 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. Clinton was impeached by the House, but the Senate failed to convict in 1999 and he served out his full second term. Nixon resigned in 1974 as impeachment charges related to the Watergate cover-up loomed; the matter never got to the full House.

Both the Nixon and Clinton ordeals began with reports from special prosecutors in roles akin to Mueller's, and both covered obstruction of justice, along with other charges.

Currently, both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans.

Whatever action awaits Trump, if any, the President is already on the defensive. On Wednesday, he said on Twitter that Manafort had worked for him only "for a very short time" and the charges against his former campaign manager "have nothing to do with Collusion," which he referred to as "a Hoax!"

Later, the President asked on Twitter whether Manafort had been treated worse than the infamous gangster Al Capone. "Looking back on history, who was treated worse, Alfonse Capone, legendary mob boss, killer and 'Public Enemy Number One,' or Paul Manafort, political operative & Reagan/Dole darling, now serving solitary confinement - although convicted of nothing?" Trump tweeted, before writing, "Where is the Russian Collusion?"

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 133802

Reported Deaths: 2402
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin34033991
Ramsey14073360
Dakota9823138
Anoka8661150
Washington593272
Stearns582543
Scott338234
Olmsted325230
St. Louis296569
Wright248314
Clay229743
Nobles226816
Blue Earth20437
Carver17897
Sherburne168522
Kandiyohi16705
Rice163310
Mower151717
Winona125019
Crow Wing101022
Chisago10022
Lyon9656
Benton9409
Waseca9289
Beltrami8917
Otter Tail8627
Todd8055
Steele7593
Nicollet73017
Itasca72717
Morrison7269
Douglas6963
Freeborn6694
Polk6434
Le Sueur6235
Martin61317
McLeod5974
Goodhue58511
Watonwan5784
Becker5614
Pine5430
Isanti5415
Chippewa4353
Carlton4341
Mille Lacs40615
Dodge3940
Hubbard3902
Wabasha3780
Cass3705
Pipestone35017
Rock3284
Meeker3263
Brown3213
Unassigned29053
Yellow Medicine2836
Cottonwood2800
Murray2783
Redwood27511
Roseau2640
Fillmore2600
Renville25211
Sibley2523
Faribault2310
Wadena2313
Jackson2101
Kanabec20910
Houston2041
Swift2011
Pennington1911
Lincoln1820
Stevens1821
Aitkin1792
Koochiching1694
Pope1560
Big Stone1380
Wilkin1344
Lac qui Parle1333
Marshall1211
Lake1190
Norman1150
Mahnomen1132
Clearwater1110
Grant984
Red Lake782
Traverse560
Lake of the Woods441
Kittson400
Cook160

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 115574

Reported Deaths: 1621
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk18874288
Woodbury718394
Johnson584430
Black Hawk557498
Linn5513129
Dubuque518657
Scott454138
Story398918
Dallas344344
Pottawattamie323544
Sioux242516
Buena Vista225512
Marshall201436
Webster183015
Plymouth165727
Wapello152562
Clinton148326
Muscatine144258
Des Moines138610
Cerro Gordo136225
Crawford135514
Warren12477
Carroll114512
Jasper109634
Henry10545
Marion100710
Lee95410
Tama94437
Delaware77812
Dickinson7347
Wright7191
Boone7179
Mahaska68724
Bremer6719
Harrison65311
Washington65311
Jackson6283
Benton5812
Lyon5497
Clay5284
Louisa52115
Winnebago48719
Hardin4757
Winneshiek4749
Hamilton4684
Kossuth4660
Cedar4605
Poweshiek45611
Buchanan4514
Jones4444
Floyd43311
Emmet42917
Clayton4193
Iowa4059
Cherokee4022
Page3990
Mills3971
Sac3974
Guthrie39115
Cass3883
Franklin38018
Butler3782
Fayette3744
Shelby3721
Allamakee3638
Madison3603
Chickasaw3561
Clarke3493
Humboldt3233
Hancock3164
Palo Alto3102
Calhoun3074
Grundy3075
Osceola2791
Mitchell2750
Howard2699
Monroe25911
Monona2441
Jefferson2381
Taylor2362
Union2324
Appanoose2253
Pocahontas2232
Fremont2021
Lucas2016
Ida1922
Greene1860
Davis1764
Van Buren1742
Montgomery1737
Adair1611
Keokuk1601
Decatur1500
Worth1440
Audubon1421
Wayne1203
Ringgold882
Adams810
Unassigned260
Rochester
Clear
18° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 10°
Mason City
Clear
21° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 15°
Albert Lea
Clear
18° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 18°
Austin
Clear
21° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 25°
Feels Like: 21°
Charles City
Broken Clouds
19° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 24°
Feels Like: 13°
Temps gradually warming through the week!
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Community Events