A Short History Of Presidential Obstruction Of Justice

WHAT EXACTLY IS obstruction of justice? And has President Donald Trump engaged in it, by reportedly telling FBI Director James Comey that he hoped Comey would “let go” of the bureau’s investigation of Trump’s National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and then firing Comey months later?

The answer to the first question is: Criminal obstruction of justice is broadly defined, and according to 18 U.S. Code § 1503, includes “any threatening letter or communication [which] influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice.”

The Criminal Resource Manual for U.S. attorneys points out that “the Supreme Court has concluded that ‘endeavor’ is broader than ‘attempt’” — and quotes the court stating that in the statute it means “any effort or essay to accomplish the evil purpose that the section was enacted to prevent.” Therefore, says the Justice Department, “it follows that an endeavor to obstruct justice need not be successful to be criminal.”

But the answer to the second question is this: Trump may or may not have engaged in obstruction of justice under normal judicial standards, but that’s irrelevant — the only thing that matters is whether Congress decides he did so under whatever standards they believe are appropriate….continue reading

 

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