Experts Debate Whether Trump Obstructed Justice in Comey Meeting

The stock market felt the uncertainty today, with the Dow dropping over 375 points during the trading session.  Clearly investors are concerned and I thought this was a great article for you learned members to join in on.  What's your take?  Is the President exempt from such or is "intent" the main point to be discussed while Congress grills Comey? 

President Trump shakes hands with James Comey, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, at the White House in January. Mr. Trump fired Mr. Flynn this month.

President Donald Trump’s White House meeting with then-FBI Director James Comey about former national-security adviser Mike Flynn has some lawmakers and legal experts saying the president may have crossed a criminal line and obstructed justice.

At the one-on-one meeting in February, Mr. Trump asked Mr. Comey to drop the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s probe into Mr. Flynn and his ties to Russia, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote. Mr. Comey didn’t drop the investigation, and Mr. Trump fired him this month.

The White House strongly denies Mr. Comey’s version of the meeting, and Mr. Trump said in an NBC interview that he fired him for incompetence.

What is obstruction of justice? And do Mr. Trump’s alleged actions fit the bill? Below is a rundown of the law and how it might apply to the conduct of a sitting president.

Which federal law targets obstruction of justice?

18 U.S. Code Chapter 73. The law’s 21 sections cover everything from assaulting a process server to influencing jurors to obstructing criminal investigations. Congress enacted the modern precursor to the obstruction law in 1909 and has tinkered with it several times since, broadening its scope and enhancing its penalties, according to a 2009 paper by New York University law professor Erin Murphy.

Legislators extended the law’s reach to cover acts interfering with FBI investigations in 1967. The change was meant to give prosecutors a tool to punish mobsters for targeting witnesses cooperating with federal agents against them.

“It will be a serious crime to obstruct a federal criminal investigation through bribery, intimidation, force or threats of force,” President Lyndon Johnson said in his signing statement, adding that its “chief impact will fall on organized crime.”

The law’s broadest provision is Section 1503. It says that anyone who “corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication” attempts to “influence, obstruct, or impede” the administration of justice is guilty of a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison. (If the crime involves attempted killing or threats against a juror, the penalty increases to a maximum of 20 years.)

How has the law been used?

“Obstruction of justice” may evoke evidence destruction or witness tampering, but courts have interpreted the federal law to cover a much broader expanse of conduct, giving prosecutors freedom to innovate.

The New Orleans-based Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, in an oft-quoted 1979 ruling describing the breadth of the law, said it was intended to cover “a variety of corrupt methods” of obstruction limited “only by the imagination of the criminally inclined.”

Prosecutors need not show anyone succeed in obstructing justice to prove violations of the law, said Lisa Kern Griffin, a professor at Duke University School of Law. Nor must the investigation or proceedings that were obstructed lead to criminal charges.

Prof. Griffin gave the example of I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, an adviser to former Vice President Dick Cheney who was convicted in 2007 of obstruction for misleading a grand jury in an investigation of the leaked identity of Central Intelligence Agency operative Valerie Plame. He wasn’t charged with the leak itself.

Prosecutors have brought successful cases for obstruction when the conduct included persuading a secretary not to cooperate with law enforcement, attempting to coerce or bribe witnesses to lie or withhold testimony, and misleading grand juries, Prof. Griffin said.

Can a sitting president be prosecuted for obstruction of justice?

No president has ever been charged with obstruction of justice. “We don’t have any precedent on this,” said Prof. Sara Sun Beale, who teaches criminal justice policy at Duke.

Legal scholars have debated the issue of presidential immunity. There isn’t a consensus on whether a president can be indicted or first must be impeached or removed from office. The starting point is the constitutional text, which some interpret to instruct that impeachment should precede a criminal prosecution.

In 1997, Georgetown University Law Centerposed the question to various legal thinkers, who offered conflicting takes.

Some professors argued that a president is “unique and cannot be subject to prosecution” while in office.” At least one scholar offered the opposite view: that presidents aren’t immune from criminal prosecution.

What is clearer is that presidents can be subject to criminal probes.

Did the president obstruct justice, according to Mr. Comey’s version of events?

Legal experts say we don’t know enough at the moment to say for sure. Pivotal to establishing obstruction—particularly in white-collar cases—is the element of intent: demonstrating the accused acted with the purpose of interfering with justice. “Intent is the heart of it,” said Duke criminal law professor Samuel Buell.

Like a lot of other areas of criminal law, inserting a president into the equation complicates the analysis. In theory, a president could have good-faith reasons, such as national security concerns, for pressing the FBI to stop probing a particular matter.

So when would presidential interference cross the line from legitimate governing to obstruction? What matters more than the words uttered between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey is the purpose behind them, said Prof. Buell.

He framed the issue as whether the president acted with “personal motives that don’t have to do with fulfilling his public obligations as president.”

“If the president is firing law-enforcement officials or trying to influence criminal investigations for improper purposes...then that at the very least would warrant a full-blown investigation,” said Prof. Buell.

Did Mr. Comey have a duty to report what Mr. Trump told him?

If the FBI director believed that Mr. Trump was obstructing justice, federal law in theory might prohibit Mr. Comey from concealing the president’s actions. But an FBI director isn’t required to take immediate action every time he becomes aware of a potential crime, said Prof. Buell.

Courtesy of WSJ

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Judicial Watch

Russia Special Counsel Mueller Worked with Radical Islamic Groups to Purge Anti-Terrorism Training Material Offensive to Muslims

MAY 18, 2017

Now that Robert Mueller has been appointed special counsel to investigate if Russia influenced the 2016 presidential election it’s worth reiterating his misguided handiwork and collaboration with radical Islamic organizations as FBI director. Judicial Watch exclusively obtained droves of records back in 2013 documenting how, under Mueller’s leadership, the FBI purged all anti-terrorism training material deemed “offensive” to Muslims after secret meetings between Islamic organizations and the FBI chief. Judicial Watch had to sue to get the records and published an in-depth report on the scandal in 2013 and a lengthier, updated follow-up in 2015.

As FBI director, Mueller bent over backwards to please radical Islamic groups and caved into their demands. The agency eliminated the valuable anti-terrorism training material and curricula after Mueller met with various Islamic organizations, including those with documented ties too terrorism. Among them were two organizations— Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR)—named by the U.S. government as unindicted co-conspirators in the 2007 Holy Land Foundation terrorist financing case. CAIR is a terrorist front group with extensive links to foreign and domestic Islamists. It was founded in 1994 by three Middle Eastern extremists (Omar Ahmad, Nihad Awad and Rafeeq Jaber) who ran the American propaganda wing of Hamas, known then as the Islamic Association for Palestine.

The records obtained as part of Judicial Watch’s lawsuit show that Mueller, who served 12 years as FBI chief, met with the Islamic organizations on February 8, 2012 to hear their demands. Shortly later the director assured the Muslim groups that he had ordered the removal of presentations and curricula on Islam from FBI offices nationwide. The purge was part of a broader Islamist operation designed to influence the opinions and actions of persons, institutions, governments and the public at-large. The records obtained by Judicial Watch also show similar incidents of Islamic influence operations at the Departments of Justice and State, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Obama White House.

Here are some of the reasons provided by Mueller’s FBI for getting rid of “offensive” training documents: “Article is highly inflammatory and inaccurately argues the Muslim Brotherhood is a terrorist organization.” It’s crucial to note that Mueller himself had previously described the Muslim Brotherhood as a group that supports terrorism in the U.S. and overseas when his agency provided this ludicrous explanation. Here’s more training material that offended the terrorist groups, according to the FBI files provided to Judicial Watch: An article claiming Al Qaeda is “clearly linked” to the 1993 World Trade Center Bombing; The Qur’an is not the teachings of the Prophet, but the revealed word of God; Sweeping generality of ‘Those who fit the terrorist profile best (for the present at least) are young male immigrants of Middle Eastern appearance;’ conflating Islamic Militancy with terrorism. The list goes on and on.

Mueller’s actions have had a widespread effect because many local law enforcement agencies followed the FBI’s lead in allowing Islamic groups like CAIR to dictate what anti-terrorism material could be used to train officers. Among them are police departments in three Illinois cities— Lombard, Elmhurst and Highland Park—as well as the New York Police Department (NYPD). In the case of the Lombard Police Department, CAIR asserted that the instructor of a training course called “Islamic Awareness as a Counter-Terrorist Strategy” was anti-Muslim though there was no evidence to support it. Like the FBI, Lombard officials got rid of the “offensive” course. The NYPD purged a highly-acclaimed report that’s proven to be a critical tool in terrorism investigations after three New York Muslims, two mosques and an Islamic nonprofit filed a lawsuit.

Considering Mueller’s role in much of this, it makes him a bizarre choice to lead the heated Russia investigation. The goal, apparently, is to determine of Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and if President Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials. In the Justice Department announcement, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein describes Mueller as person who qualifies to lead the probe because he exercises a degree of independence from the normal chain of command. “Special Counsel Mueller will have all appropriate resources to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and I am confident that he will follow the facts, apply the law and reach a just result,” according to Rosenstein.

http://www.judicialwatch.org/blog/2017/05/russia-special-counsel-mu...

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Chris Farrell on Trump/Russia Probe: "There are two sides" to Fmr. FBI Director Robert Mueller

http://www.judicialwatch.org/chris-farrell-trumprussia-probe-two-si...

AM912, These articles show exactly why "We the People" cannot get anything done for our money.  They have too much "rigging" going on in DC.

Here is a treatment for our progressive friends that are suffering from panic attacks . . .

http://www.cumc.columbia.edu/psjournal/archive/archives/jour_v19no1...

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