Legendary Prosecutor: Obstruction of Justice Case Against Trump Already ‘Crystal Clear’
Award-Winning Former DOJ Prosecutor of Enron, Samuel Buell, Has Little Doubt On Obstruction Case Against Trump
Duke University Law Professor Samuel Buell, a former lead prosecutor for the Justice Department pursuing the infamous case against Enron, laid out the case for an obstruction of justice charge against President Donald Trump in an article for Slate today and came to one conclusion: the case is already a “slam dunk”.
Buell explains the “three basic legal elements of obstruction of justice are satisfied in this case”. He argues that Trump’s “directive” to former FBI Director James Comey was an effort to disrupt the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, it was done with the investigation (“official proceeding”) in mind, and the actions were carried out with “corrupt intent”. Buell shows courts have found all three of these actions fit previous precedent for prosecution. He also notes in the article that Trump and others in his administration have essentially brought this on themselves through their subsequent public statements.
But maybe one of the most important aspects of a possible Trump legal defense is the word “hope”. The argument goes that Trump allegedly told Comey he only hoped he would go easy on Flynn and that comment, technically, wasn’t a direct order to drop the case entirely. Buell annihilates this rationale:
Another implausible argument advanced on behalf of the president is that his alleged statements to Comey about dropping the Flynn investigation were not a directive because the president said only that he “hoped” Comey would act accordingly. (Trump denies saying even this.) As a matter of common sense, the argument that a person with immense power cannot mean to influence an underling when making a “mere” suggestion should strike anyone familiar with the milieu of The Sopranos as frivolous. As a matter of law, expressing “hope” can constitute obstruction of justice. The judicial decisions in obstruction of justice cases are replete with examples of people prosecuted for attempting to influence others subtly and through less than direct orders.
All that said, Buell does caution that any of this playing out to the point of an impeachment is still problematic since it will have to go through Congress as long as Trump is president. It should be remembered two-thirds of the Senate is required to convict and the likelihood that nineteen Republicans will turn on their own guy – even Donald Trump – is extremely doubtful at the moment. Polls are showing public pressure for impeachment is continuing to grow, despite the political realities.
Samuel Buell, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney, was awarded the Attorney General’s Award for Exceptional Service for his work on the Enron case in 2006 by George W. Bush’s Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. His latest book is Capital Offenses: Business Crime and Punishment in America’s Corporate Age. It’s clear from his experience he knows obstruction of justice by wealthy businesspersons and he leaves no doubt about what he sees now. The only question seemingly remaining will be whether the GOP in the Senate chooses politics or justice. Only time will tell us their eventual choice.
Featured image via Mark Wilson/Getty Images.
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