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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LOL! Love the "Nothing burger with Russian dressing" analogy. You summoned it up nicely.

LOL it was funny wasn't it. 

o.k. on the serious side, the FBI/shadow government will be conducting the investigation. How smart is that?

No there is no crime or even a question of>>>>

Ever ask yourself how many times they should have and did not use the Special Prosecutor during Obama's reign?

Clinton was the big winner with 26 attempts! 

I will point out that not everyone has had a Special Prosecutor

Even then, Bill Clinton was found guilty but the Senate took him off the hook.  Politics = such a game.

This is strange and I really don't know how to read Gowdy. Maybe you all can understand him better after viewing the video...


Trey Gowdy Stops Just Short Of Calling Collusion On The Clintons And The DOJ [VIDEO]

Comment from a fiend . . I never realized just how corrupt our gov't was until Trump got in and exposed them for the garbage they are. There is a # to contact the White House and leave a comment 1-202-456-1111. I heard Herman Caine give the number out while on Hannity last night,

Looks like the Left's Shining Knight, the wiener wagger, got something caught in his zipper now that the FBI finally found an investigator who would put their hands on his sticky laptop.  :)

Weiner is the weak link in "the witch's" EMail conspiracy and hopefully will squeal for a lighter sentence . . . . if not, he may squeal like the pig he is, with Bubba (Deliverance comes to mind) as his bunk mate for a few years   :)

The clinton-crime-family have to be very concerned.

o/c he could always slip and fall; breaking his neck.  We've seen how accident prone it can be in Washington

The media driven panic is just more elite trying to rule on what they lost destroy @realDonaldTrump & voters must now defend our choice. RT to save freedom

@realDonaldtrump we have your back and will seek to discredit the elite in DC and the biased media RT So those see they are lost in all ways


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