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Can US President Donald Trump be Indicted for Obstruction of Justice?

Did Trump obstruct justice when he allegedly asked then FBI-director James Comey for an end to the Flynn probe? And, is it an issue for the courts or Congress to decide?

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Donald Trump's alleged obstruction of justice
From left, President Donald Trump, former White House National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, former FBI Director James Comey. VOA
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  • Donald Trump allegedly asked ex-FBI Director James Comey in February to stop his investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn
  • According to Trump’s personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, the president never, in form or substance, indicated Mr. Comey to stop investigating anyone
  • The case for obstruction of justice based on Comey’s testimony is far from ironclad, legal scholars say

Washington, June 10, 2017: Did President Donald Trump break the law when he allegedly asked then-FBI Director James Comey in February to stop his investigation of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn?

The question is at the heart of a legal debate a day after Comey disclosed during closely watched congressional testimony that Trump asked him to end his investigation of Flynn’s suspected ties to Russia.

In riveting detail, Comey recounted that after a February 14 counter-intelligence briefing at the White House, Trump told him that he wanted “to talk about Mike Flynn,” saying Flynn “is a good guy” and “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go.”

The allegation raised two sets of questions: Did Trump obstruct justice when he asked for an end to the Flynn probe? And, is it an issue for the courts or Congress to decide?

Marc Kasowitz, Trump’s personal lawyer, said in a statement released after the testimony that “the president never, in form or substance, directed or suggested that Mr. Comey stop investigating anyone.”

Directive

Senators were at odds over the implications of Comey’s testimony. While some Democrats suggested it pointed to obstruction of justice by Trump, Republican members of the panel seized on the fact that the president did not explicitly “direct” the former FBI director to drop the Flynn investigation.

In response to a question, Comey declined to say whether he thought Trump’s conduct amounted to obstruction of justice, saying it was up to Special Counsel Robert Mueller to make that determination.

To Trump’s critics, Comey’s revelations recalled the “Nixon tapes,” secret White House recordings that former President Richard Nixon refused to release during the Watergate scandal, ultimately leading to his resignation in 1974.

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Case not ironclad

But the case for obstruction of justice based on Comey’s testimony is far from ironclad, legal scholars say.

While Trump’s alleged interactions with Comey were seen by many as grossly out of line, the Comey testimony did not provide grounds for obstruction charges, these scholars say.

“The president is not facing a particularly compelling case of obstruction for prosecution at this time,” said Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University School of Law. “This is also not a record that would support impeachment.”

Louis Michael Seidman, a professor of constitutional law at Georgetown University, agreed that the case for charging Trump with obstruction of justice is not there, but he said that Comey’s firing after he refused to carry out the president’s wishes is “a serious matter.”

“No one outside the White House is contesting the fact that that is what happened, that director Comey is telling the truth,” Seidman said. “If he is telling the truth, that means the president has lied about it and that is a further indication he may not be fit to be president of the United States.”

Presidential history

No American president has ever been indicted while in office, though two, Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton, were impeached but later acquitted.

Legal scholars disagree over whether a sitting president can be prosecuted, but the White House Counsel’s office has argued against it, deciding in at least two instances not to indict a president, Seidman said.

Obstruction of justice, or interference with a legal proceeding, such as a criminal investigation, is a crime, but proving it is legally challenging. To demonstrate obstruction of justice, prosecutors must show evidence of “corrupt intent.”

“That’s a very difficult standard to meet,” Turley said.

Andy McCarthy, a former federal prosecutor and now a fellow at the conservative National Review Institute, said that as the head of the executive branch of government, Trump has “prosecutorial discretion” to end an investigation and that he “couldn’t conceivably have thought he was doing something wrong.”

“Therefore, it would be impossible to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he acted corruptly,” McCarthy said.

Though Trump’s true motivation remains unknown, “it’s perfectly plausible that the president was feeling sympathetic to his former aide who had just resigned and was facing a torrent of criticism,” Turley said.

Congressional actions

The U.S. Constitution allows Congress to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery or other high crimes and misdemeanors” through impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives and a trial in the Senate.

While it is easier to bring an article of impeachment on obstruction charges, the allegation of crimes must be far more detailed than what has been alleged about Trump, Turley said.

In the Nixon case, he noted, the first article of impeachment in the House of Representatives listed obstruction of justice but included “nine separate but rather detailed crimes.”

In the Clinton impeachment case, the House of Representatives dropped an article on obstruction of justice, said Turley, who testified before the House in favor of impeachment.

With Republicans in control of Congress, the prospects of their impeachment of their party leader appear slim. But Turley said impeachment is not always brought for purely political reasons.

In Watergate, he noted that Republicans abandoned Nixon in favor of his impeachment. And today, congressional Republicans are “actively supporting the investigation of Donald Trump,” he said. (VOA)

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Trump’s Leadership: The First Errors and Achievements

One of the main reasons explaining Trump's unpopularity was reviews in mass media, according to the head of communications of White House

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Donald Trump
Trump has not yet managed to implement the promised reforms of the healthcare system and tax legislation.

Nicole Lewis

It has already been a year since Donald Trump was authorized the Presidency of the US.
During the first year of the country’s leadership, Trump has 100% proven that he was one of the most controversial presidents in the US history.

We should admit that perhaps no other leader of the United States has caught the keen
interest of the worldwide public. It is definitely so. Based upon the intense debate in social
networks, some thought that Trump was almost a general who would lead the battle against the breach of justice, while others argued that impeachment was just around the corner.

Still, others argued that the billionaire president just wanted to have some fun, therefore,
decided to run for the presidency. After keeping an eye on Donald Trump for more than a
year, we can sum up the first results of his presidency – on November, 8; it is exactly one
year after the inauguration of the 45th US president. So, let’s see how the first presidential
year was for Mr. Trump.

Victory or a Disaster?

Nearly 60 percent of the US population is disapproving behavior, actions, and decisions of
Donald Trump, as stated at essay birdie. There are many “yes” and “no” about his policy;
however, everything is subjective. In this post, we will talk about what Donald Trump has
achieved and what areas he has not succeeded in over 365 days his presidency.

Economic Policy – Victory

Economic policy and the growth of the stock market are indeed the main achievements of
Trump’s domestic policies. Another important change is the elimination of many legal
restrictions for businesses, which has contributed to the development of the country’s
economy. Considering his decisions, it is a true embodiment of the slogan of Trump’s campaign “Let’s Make America Great again!”

Healthcare Reform – Failure

Trump has not yet managed to implement the promised reforms of the healthcare system and tax legislation. There is the law that he aimed to start to implement almost the first day after taking his post – the idea has not been funded by the Congress.

 

Donald Trump.
Donald Trump. (Wikimedia Commons)

Behavior in a Political Scene – Failure

The current US president sometimes oversteps the mark. For example, Donald Trump threw paper towels to hurricane victims in Puerto Rico, pushed the Prime Minister of Montenegro, and constantly curses the media.

Foreign Policy Is in Crosshairs

It’s not so easy with foreign policy. The German Foreign Ministry Representative Maria
Adebar called the decisions of the US president unpredictable, and many foreign leaders
would agree with the diplomat. Constant suspicions in relations with Russia is only one point in the long list of issues.

His uncertainty in politics is related not only to the foreign policy. This can be referred to the healthcare sector as well. His positions on health, tax reform, and financial regulation are highly attractive to super-rich people. However, it is quite difficult to understand how Trump intends to improve the position of the middle class, which is the popular majority of the population.

Diplomatic Failures May Result in the Loss of an Important Ally

Only yesterday Trump promised to make the world better, and today he has already faced the disagreement of Iran and Australia to follow the US orders considering the president not very competent and experienced. And this statement seems to be true if one analyze his behavior while having a telephone call with the Australian Prime Minister.

Trump was very impulsive and hung up, which may lead to unwanted consequences, if to be more exact, there is a risk of worsening of relations with the closest US ally. Moreover,
before hanging up, he said that the conversation had been the worst one lately.

It is known that Malcolm Turnbull reminded about the negotiations with Obama and the
decision to provide 1250 refugees. The refusal of Trump to keep the word of the previous
president may lead to the loss of Australia as an important ally, which seems to be unwise.

One of the main reasons explaining Trump's unpopularity was reviews in mass media, according to the head of communications of White House.
One of the main reasons explaining Trump’s unpopularity was reviews in mass media, according to the head of communications of White House. VOA

Trump is the “Winner” in the Negative Reports

According to the research of T. Patterson, the professor from Harvard, D.Trump has bypassed all previous presidents showing the most negative results. Compared to Obama, who had three times more positive coverage, Trump has 70% negative and only 30% positive.

The crucial event that played an important role in these results was the order of the president to attack a Syrian airbase. Trump admitted that he this action was his answer to the Assad use of chemicals. Was he authorized to react like this? As a result, six people died, among which there were Russians, moreover, there were a lot of wounded. It is not surprising that after this order, the BBC coverage became 70 % negative.

Trump Presidency: Trust His Promises or Not to Trust: That is the Question

One of the main reasons explaining Trump’s unpopularity was reviews in mass media, according to the head of communications of White House. As the administration states, an independent study showed that the reports of Trump in 95% of cases were negative. However, the dislike of the media and Trump is mutual. Mentions of Trump in the posts like “Enemies of the American people” are not the biggest disaster in the career of the US president.

According to the political consultant, there are plenty of fake news in NBC News, CBS News, ABC, and CNN, but in any case seems that the president won’t be able to meet the
expectations of his voters. A successful businessman turned out to be not a very promising
leader able to normalize relations between the US and other countries, vice versa, his actions may result in the worsening of the situation.

Nicole Lewis is an acclaimed writer with https://www.facebook.com/edubirdie/. Her works have been published in the leading newspapers and magazines.