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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Replies to This Discussion

“It will be a serious crime to obstruct a federal criminal investigation through bribery, intimidation, force or threats of force,”.

Unless "intimidation" includes "asking" and "hoping" that General Flynn's "investigation" can be sped up, I, personally don't see how "obstruction" occurred, UNLESS, President Trump attempted to "bribe" Comey with "two scoops of ice cream" or "intimidated" him by asking if he preferred "Russian dressing"  :)

This is just more of the Left's Dementia played out on the world stage and may/probably will be detrimental to America's Economy . . . which seems to be at the bottom of the Dems list of things that need HELP.

Face it . . . the Left has no concern about the future of America . . . they just want to rule it until it falls into the dustbin of history as a failed nation.

Agree with you Rich.

They debate, debate and debate until one wants to puke.

So now its in Mueller's court. Will the Dem's shut up? No. Will the Republican RHINO's, anti-Trumpster's in Congress shut up and take the time to get the President's agenda done? Doubt it.

Here is the failure of the DC elite - it is now just blow back  

Is anyone else of the opinion that the democrats are shooting themselves in he foot?  Democrats better watch what they ask for.  They just might get it.  Looks like they are getting what they asked for.  I think the democrats just opened a can of worms that could very well provide the republicans a few more seats in Congress.  

The standard operating procedure for Special Investigations is to investigate a specific crime, THEN, as it leads to other crimes, connect the dots.

My hope is that when they defer to Comey's "Notes" they will, in order to prove or disprove his note-taking "skills" want to see other notes on other conversations he had in the cover-ups of crimes committed under the obamba Regime, clinton-crime-family and ex-President Jarrett.

Mueller, being an old Combat Marine, should hold duty and honor first and laugh at the crooks as they fall.

This investigation should prove quite interesting . . . . :)

Here's a quick recap of obamba, "the witch" and ex-President Jarrett's "criminal exposure".

We have 16 Intelligence Agencies. You would think after all this time at least one of the agencies would have evidence or documented proof to squash the Kabuki theater guessing game.

"Is anyone else of the opinion that the democrats are shooting themselves in he foot?"

Yes there are but at the same time I'd have to say the "do nothing", worthless, silent Republican establishment is of no help. Republicans do want you to get angered at the marxists party so that you'll be sure to reelect them in 2018.

What we have going on here is a dangerous game of Political politics above National security. The same Kabuki theater being played out by the same federal agencies and political establishment actors.

Yes to all the previous 3 replies. However it is to early to tell. I have this feeling that there will be destroyed careers. This may occur just to give both sides a hollow win in order to provide the political class cover.

If you ever here a politician or investigator say something like...

the investigation is conducted for the American people who will ultimately be the final judges. I have heard that stated by Darrell Issa during the IRS investigation and another politician recently but I can't remember his name.

Which means.... the American people will hear the testimony in the oversight committee/media then be able to vote the bums out at the polls.

That is how justice is served according to politicians who are involved with the investigations. Definitely could be the reason why after all the scandalous investigations in the past, they turned out to be a nothing burger.

Can we actually expect for the 1st time in years, an honest, truthful  investigation if it is run by another FBI special counsel?

"Nothing burger with Russian dressing"


Mueller investigation will prolong, not halt, political controversy over Russia

FOX News · 3 hours ago

The Justice Department’s appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special counsel to investigate alleged Russian interference in last

Haupt: Politics a grandiose sales pitch

By William Haupt III / May 16, 2017

“Politics is the gentle art of getting votes from the poor and campaign funds from the rich, by promising to protect each from the other.”

– Oscar Ameringer

According to a recent Gallup report, Americans regard the clergy as the most honest and honorable of all professions. And this same survey lists the bottom three professions they deem least tolerant: Car salesman 9 percent, politicians 8 percent and lobbyists 7 percent. Can anyone believe that a car salesman is considered as honest and trustworthy as those running our governments?

“Could it be because you can now merchandise candidates for high office like breakfast cereal? As Adlai Stevenson said, “We gather votes like box tops?” Yes, we are now indeed selling out votes to the highest bidder like used car salesmen hock their 10 year old, high mileage junkers on the late, late show. And,

“This has become the ultimate indignity to the democratic process.”

– Adlai Stevenson

The public’s distrust for car salesmen is universal. As we hear the words “car salesman,” we think of that cigar smoking, tire kicking, slick haired, unfashionably dressed shyster that tried to sell you a car driven by the little old lady from Pasadena. Although this is a far-reaching stereotype, behind every prototype lurks some truth. And, more at

Enjoyed! Know what over my lifetime as an adult -- been burned -- learned from the lessons.

"been burned -- learned from the lessons"

Yep, same here. Been there, heard it all. Not gonna fall for it.

It's one of the reasons why I pull back and disappear to keep my head on straight.


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