Obstruction of Justice

As of last night, Donald Trump is officially being investigated to see if he committed Obstruction of Justice. This was a long time coming. There is a lot to know about Obstruction of Justice, and where we go from here is anyone’s guess.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller announced just yesterday that he is officially opening a criminal investigation against Donald Trump. It’s actually happening. He’s investigating whether Trump has committed Obstruction of Justice. If you’re unfamiliar with that, there’s a great chart from the University of Minnesota Law School the different types of “Crimes Against the Administration of Justice.” In short, you can impersonate a police officer, fail to hand over evidence, refuse to cooperate in an investigation, and so on, all of which are obstruction of justice. Here’s a clip from that chart as it relates to Donald Trump.

Screen Shot 2017-06-15 at 11.46.08 AM
http://open.lib.umn.edu/criminallaw/chapter/13-3-perjury-bribery-and-obstruction-of-justice/

 

Let’s see how we got here:

First of all, Lieutenant General Michael Flynn wasn’t as forthcoming to Pence, Spicer, and others about his conversations with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s Ambassador the United States. He also lied on his application for renewal of his top-secret security clearance last year. He had ties with at least two Russian officials and didn’t disclose that to the Pentagon on his application. So, given these violations, whether they are clear violations of law or just a very strong indication of an inability to trust Flynn, it’s good that he was fired. In light of Trump’s more recent calls for loyalty from many of his staff, I feel that Flynn was also fired because he seemed like a guy who played by his own rules instead of being someone that Trump could trust to play by Trump’s rules. In other words, he was too confident in taking his own actions such that Trump couldn’t trust him to fall in line.

So, after Flynn was fired, there were myriad testimonies and calls to action to uncover what Flynn did, whether it was unethical or possibly even illegal, who knew about it, and whether anyone else was culpable.

All of this seems to be in the past regarding the current situation with Trump, but for some reason, Trump kept defending the person he fired. He kept defending Flynn.

Donald Trump has, in fact, done many things that seemed to be worthy of an investigation in obstruction of justice.

Unfortunately, it’s often said that an act must rise to the level of being considered a violation. There are some situations in which an infraction is so minor that it is not considered a violation. Often times, however, a case can be pled down, for example, from homicide to manslaughter. Other times, there is no lesser charge. However, in this case, there is both misdemeanor obstruction of justice and felony obstruction of justice. Even still, Mueller will have to provide enough evidence to even be able to bring the case to court. He needs to know and will have to be able to prove that Trump’s actions rise to the level of either misdemeanor obstruction of justice or felony obstruction of justice. If he can’t do that, then, unfortunately, the law states there is no case.

What have been some of Trump’s actions?

Well, first of all, Donald Trump was in the Oval Office with Attorney General Sessions, then-FBI Director James Comey, and other top staffers. Hen then chose to demand a private conversation with Comey. During this private conversation, he told Comey to drop the investigation in Michael Flynn. I won’t play with words like “hope” or Trump’s previous comments about “seeing your way to” or Trump’s other comments about wanting Comey to stay on as FBI Director because, no matter what Trump said, it’s clear that, especially given Trump’s egotism, he felt he had the ability to, if even through innuendo, to find a way to get Comey to drop the investigation, even without really asking him to. Trump has violated numerous laws within his lifetime, including forcing contractors to accept pennies on the dollar for work they’ve done for his real estate company, all by getting a legal team to encourage, not force, that the contractor would be better off not fighting the almighty Trump. So, it’s very likely Trump felt he could find a way to get Comey to do it without explicitly violating a law in the course of asking Comey to do so. He’s done it dozens, if not hundreds, of times before in his career.

Essentially, he said: You have a nice job as FBI Director. It’d be a shame if something happened to it. I “hope” you do the right thing because I wouldn’t want you to end up in a bad way.

Those words aren’t illegal, but anyone and everyone knows what they mean, and the threatening nature of those words is illegal.

Given the fact that Comey was fired, we’re all vindicated because we all know what these words mean. He was fired because Trump didn’t feel that he could be trusted to blindly loyal to Trump at any and all times in the future. It was a test. Plain and simple. He was asking for a pledge of loyalty.

In fact, this wasn’t the first time Trump fired someone for being disloyal. He fired Preet Bharara for not pledging loyalty to Trump when he was still the U.S. Attorney in New York. In fact, Trump called U.S. Attorney Bharara several times, which is clearly a breach of protocol between law enforcement and the Executive Branch. It’s long been held that Justice cannot be upheld via independent investigations if those with the power to fire investigators have the ability to or even a hint of the ability to influence such investigations. Trump’s repeated phone calls to Bharara were more than a hint. Furthermore, when Bharara’s office pushed back, telling Trump that it is highly inappropriate to contact Bharara’s office for anything at all, Bharara was fired less than 24 hours later. 22 hours, to be exact. So, it’s clear that Trump, walking around in his bathrobe late at night in the White House residence, was plotting out a way to ensure that everyone would be completely loyal to him, blindly loyal in fact.

So, it’s clear he’s a bad guy, but did he obstruct Justice? This is what Robert Mueller has to prove. Is there something in the Constitution that enumerates a punishable infraction?

He obviously breached protocol by contacting law enforcement officials and having uncheckable conversations with at least one of them, but that’s just a precaution put in place to ensure Comey and others can’t be influenced. Being influenced would be as much the fault of an FBI Director, an AG, or others as it would be Trump’s fault. No one should have to be put under that much pressure so it’s clear Trump is simply a bully, but did he actually violate a law? Ethics violations, sure! But is that punishable? All of this is what’s going on right now, and as of last night, what’s being investigated as a possible criminal act.

Mueller has been looking into this for a long time now, and as of last night, he decided there’s enough evidence to warrant a formal investigation. You can’t investigate if there isn’t cause to do so, and Mueller now feels there’s enough.

Unfortunately, I don’t see a smoking gun. I wish there was, but I don’t see it. I personally believe there is an abundance of evidence but no smoking gun. As such, I’m not sure whether a judge would determine that there’s enough evidence to try the case, as you can’t tie someone up in a legal matter without evidence. However, I can say that, whatever Mueller can do, there’s plenty of evidence coalescing around Obstruction of Justice if not pointing directly to it AND that any of Trump’s defenses are incredibly weak. “Politically motivated” is like saying Mueller wants to bring the case because he doesn’t like Trump, that he won’t play with Trump in the sandbox. Moreover, Trump’s recent thoughts about firing Mueller, something he probably can’t do but certainly thinks he has the power to do, is another piece of evidence swirling around possible charges if not pointing directly at it.

What’s further indefensible is that Trump’s first full Cabinet meeting recently played out like everyone in the room was so afraid to say anything even nuanced about what their offices, and what Trump, are doing to improve this country. They were so afraid to say anything bad that they went around the room and gave such strong praise for Trump himself and his actions that it seemed like Trump successfully instilled in them the fear that anything less would get them fired. As I said, he has tested people. At first, you test someone’s loyalty and then fire them if they’re not loyal. Then, the news gets out, and eventually, you don’t have to directly test the next person because they’ve read the news and are aware of their possibly being fired if they aren’t loyal, and as such, they are loyal without a test.

Again, is this Obstruction of Justice? In this case, no. IT’S BULLYING. Whether that should be against the law is less important than whether it already is against the law. Moreover, whoever gets fired would be replaced and the next person replaced, as well, until Trump finds someone who will bow down to him. Unfortunately, none of this is illegal. In short, acting like a dictator is not illegal. Only being one is. But then, who would bring such charges if they can fired for doing so? Even if they did, they’d be fired before they could bring the case to a judge, and then perhaps Trump could influence someone who has the power to fire the judge. Ya know, maybe Trump could push to have the case heard in front of a young judge without a lot of money and with several kids to take care of and then say something like It’d be a shame if the judge in this case allowed politics to get in the way of being impartial. This judge has beautiful children, and it’d be a shame if they couldn’t be taken care of because the judge violated the law by not being impartial. Then, suddenly, the judge would get scared and choose to find in favor of Trump. It’s really simple if you think like Trump.

HOWEVER, there’s one thing that could directly point to Obstruction of Justice. Trump has been firing people who, if they were still employed in their position, would have had the ability to provide evidence of and continue in their capacity to investigate Trump’s actions. By removing these people, this could be considered Witness Tampering and could be impeding any investigation by preventing those people from being able to hand over evidence of Trump’s wrongdoing because, without the authority stripped when they were fired, they can’t even have access to find evidence that might be necessary to turn over to law enforcement. THIS may be it.

 

Now, what do I think will actually happen? Well, frankly I don’t think Trump will get that far. It may seem early, but the 2018 campaigns are around the corner, and democracy is a very powerful tool to reboot the system is something isn’t going wrong. If there’s a glitch. Therefore, I don’t think there’s too much to worry about regarding the Obstruction of Justice. Everything else Trump is doing is far worse.

So where are we now? Well, Mueller is going to investigate actual criminal wrongdoing, and we’ll see where it goes. Like I said, I think there’s enough to smell like a criminal act but no smoking gun.

Here’s the reality: Trump has been, for most of his life, and certainly while running for office and while in office, one of the most unethical human beings to have as much power as he has in recent history of this nation. He can withdraw money from his company at any time, despite setting up a trust to manage it at arm’s length, which has profited from trademarks in China, trademarks only given to him because of the office he holds, which is a violation of the Emoluments Clause, he has fired everyone that has gotten in his way, he has issued threats to anyone even thinking of being disloyal, including claiming he may have evidence the other side violated the law, and followed through to be sure no one thinks he’s bluffing, and he’s even fired the investigator and is thinking about fired the one who’s supposed to be independent all so that he can remain the most powerful man alive. He’s already been indicted by the public. If he hasn’t violated a law, most of us won’t think he’s innocent but that the law wasn’t written strongly enough to bring him down.

So what should we do? The Republicans hold the majority in the House and the Senate. Should we impeach him? Well, we can’t because the House won’t do it, and the Senate has no say in that until the House does it first.

How does Impeachment work?

Well, first, the House has to indict the President. If, by vote, Trump is indicted, then the case is heard by the Senate, which again votes but this time does so to determine whether to remove him from Office. Bill Clinton was impeached the House but acquitted by the Senate, which is why he wasn’t removed from Office.

Given the majority of Republicans in both of the House and the Senate, our best course of action is to get as many Democrats in both chambers and flip as many remaining Republicans so that they’re against Trump and would vote to indict him. That would allow the House to move forward with discussion about a possible indictment, and in Senate, that would give us the best chance to make sure we can remove him from Office.

All of this would take time, though. It’s now June 2017. There’s plenty of time, but let’s think for a second. Any investigation into criminal wrongdoing takes time and only started yesterday. If it takes a month to determine he actually violated the law, then it takes probably 2-3 months to build a case and perhaps a couple more months to ensure the case is strong. Given little evidence that could be considered a smoking gun, that case would need to be impenetrable. There’s also more time taken than usual because this is the Office of the Presidency that we’re talking about here. Moreover, the DOJ will likely take their time, asking any judge for more and more time to prepare their case, as, despite knowing the possibility that Mueller may bring formal charges, there are no grounds to claim they should’ve been preparing already. That means they’ll given at least a couple months to prepare their case. We’ll be well into 2018 by then, if not at least the second quarter of 2018. That means we’ll have already seen primary results for some House and Senate elections to be held in November 2018. As such, any indictment of Trump in the House may not take place until a new Congress in 2018. If Republicans still have the majority, there’s little we can do. If Democrats have the majority, then they could do a lot of good to help this country–healthcare, repealing the CHOICE Act etc–instead of removing Trump from Office.

Finally, if we remove Trump, we’ll have Pence. If Republican voters don’t like Trump, then it’s better to have a 2020 Presidential Election between a Democratic candidate and a weaker Trump than a Democratic candidate and someone like Pence who hasn’t yet proven how horrible he’d be and who, in comparison to Trump, would be seen as a second chance, like Trump was somehow a mulligan or something.

Whether you’re favor of Impeachment or waiting until 2020, what you do NOW is the exact same. Get as many Democrats in office or at least Republicans who don’t like Trump into office in 2018.

Call your Congressperson if they’re running for reelection or call the campaign for election of a new Congressperson. Get involved. Volunteer. Ensure that you get the word out. Do everything you can to clear up any doubts someone might have about Trump’s improprieties. Don’t oversell it. You want to be believed. So don’t go too far. Ensure that every knows that there are plenty of checks and balances in this country and that Trump is trying to dismantle them so that he can streamline his power all the way down so that he can control everything without anyone looking into whether his actions are appropriate or not.

We need to stay strong in our resolve. We need to keep knowing that we can get through this. We must never think that this is just how it’s going to be. If we do that, Trump wins. We also need to remember that we don’t want to vote someone who is just better than Trump. We want to be able to write off this mistake and move forward by voting for someone who is better than anyone who has ever held the Office of the Presidency in the past. If we take careful steps to ensure that now, then we have a really good chance.

Keep fighting, get out there and volunteer on a campaign, keep telling the truth, and we will get through this.

 

 

 

 

One thought on “Obstruction of Justice

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s