The 448-page report issued by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and made public yesterday includes many damning statements that illustrate the level of corruption that permeates Donald Trump's White House -- including Trump's instruction to his White House counsel to lie to investigators.
"It's as close to the definition of obstruction of justice as anyone could ask for," Daniel Hemel, an assistant professor of law at the University of Chicago, writes in today's Washington Post.
Telling a person to lie to investigators constitute's obstruction of justice, Hemel explains, making an apparent clear cut argument for the president to be charged. Then why didn't Mueller do that?
Believe it or not, it's because he essentially told that lawyer, Donald McGahn, not to lie just to Mueller's investigators, but to the entire country. He wanted McGahn to deny that he, Trump, had ordered him to fire Mueller as reported by The New York Times.
As Hemel explains it:
Obstruction of justice requires three elements: an obstructive act, a nexus to an official proceeding, and a corrupt motive. Mueller’s report recounts the allegedly obstructive act in detail. In late January 2018, the New York Times revealed that Trump had ordered McGahn to fire Mueller the previous June. The Times report, according to the special counsel’s report released Thursday, is supported by “substantial evidence.”
Trump nonetheless ordered McGahn to publicly dispute the Times’s account — first relaying the message through his personal attorney, then through White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, then again through White House staff secretary Rob Porter and, finally, in a face-to-face meeting with McGahn in the Oval Office last February. Trump also told Porter to convey to McGahn that the White House counsel should write a letter “for our records” denying that the president ever ordered Mueller’s firing.
Hemel pointed out that McGahn "rebuffed" Trump every time, but that doesn't put Trump in the clear just because his effort at obstruction didn't succeed. On top of that, he told McGahn to lie on four separate occasions — three times through others, once directly.
“If the President were focused solely on a press strategy,” Mueller writes, then his obstructive act might not have the necessary “nexus” to the special counsel’s inquiry. One might call this the “lying to everyone” defense.
'Slip of the Tongue'
Of course, that's just one of many instances cited in the redacted version of the Mueller report that was made public yesterday. One of the funniest (if it weren't so serious) was when Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted to investigators that she lied when she told reporters many FBI employees had lost confidence in former director James Comey and wanted him fired.
She made it up. She admitted her comments were "not founded on anything" and amounted to "a slip of the tongue" that occurred several times "in the heat of the moment."
Mueller may not have found compelling evidence that Trump conspired with Russia or that he actually broke the law. But the report is an indictment of this president's practices and actions. As The Washington Post observed today:
The report is replete with evidence of repeated lying by public officials and other Trump associates (some of whom have been charged for that conduct), of the president urging advisers not to tell the truth, of the president seeking to shut down the investigation, of a Trump campaign hoping to benefit politically from Russian hacking and leaks of information damaging to its opponent, of a White House in chaos and operating under abnormal rules.
Is this what we expect from our president?
Do we really want a president who willingly accepts campaign "dirt" on an election opponent from America's adversary, Russia? Any reasonable, responsible and honorable candidate would immediately have reported that effort to the FBI for investigation. Instead, they eagerly hoped for damaging material against Hillary Clinton, regardless of the source.
Just dirty politics, you say?
I say no. That is treason.