President Donald Trump's recent tweets appear to indicate the president is unaware of the fact that obstruction of justice can occur within any investigation, even if a separate crime isn’t unearthed.
On Tuesday morning, the president tweeted out his belief to the contrary.
It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2018
Trump was responding to a series of questions proposed by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is heading the investigation into Russia’s interference in our elections process in 2016. That investigation has expanded to include looking into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin, which Trump has described many times as a “witch hunt.”
Obstruction doesn’t require another crime to tie it to. For example, if an individual knowingly makes false statements to a law enforcement officer in order to get an agency to stop considering them as a person of interest, that is an obstruction of justice. Their action impeded an investigation and made the work of law enforcement to root out the truth more difficult in the process.
The federal statutes are quite clear on this. There are several laws that define different kinds of obstruction. One such statute is 18 USC 1503, which deals specifically with individuals attempting “to influence, intimidate, or impede any grand or petit juror” — in other words, any individual who tries to mess with an investigation involving a grand jury, as some believe Trump has done, is guilty of obstruction.
It doesn’t matter if that individual committed any other crime — obstruction charges, in this statute as well as others, do not require a primary crime to be charged. Obstruction is a crime in and of itself.
Also on Tuesday, Trump in a separate tweet suggested that the questions that leaked to The New York Times focus solely on obstruction charges, dropping entirely the question of whether collusion itself was even being considered any longer.
“No questions on Collusion,” he wrote.
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see...you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2018
In reality, many of the questions did intend to ask Trump whether he was aware of possible collusion efforts occurring in his campaign. Whether the president is lying, or he didn’t read the Times article, is unclear — but what we can be certain of is that he’s dead wrong about whether collusion is still being considered, as well as misinformed about what information started the investigation in the first place.
It is painfully obvious that Trump is unfamiliar with the United States legal process. While there’s no requirement in place mandating a sitting president be a legal scholar beyond reproach, Trump’s interpretation of the law should leave little doubt that he’s absolutely clueless when it comes to the laws he’s commenting on.
Regardless of what he tweets, obstruction is a crime, with or without a separate crime occurring — and with each day that passes, it’s looking more likely that Trump’s nerves are getting the best of him, perhaps because he knows he could be charged due to his actions while in office.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Yuri Gripas/Reuters