The much-awaited testimony of former Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been looming large for months. And now, under oath, Mueller made what could be interpreted as a clear case of obstruction of justice against President Trump.
Under questioning Wednesday from Congressman Cedric Richmond (D-Louisiana), Mueller confirmed under oath that the president ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to falsify documents related to an inquiry into obstruction of justice against the president. Ordering obstruction is, itself, obstruction of justice.
Although McGahn regularly refused President Trump’s efforts to impede Mueller’s investigation, including efforts to have Mueller removed altogether, obstruction of justice is a rare kind of crime in that it doesn’t have to actually happen in order for someone to be guilty of doing it. Just the attempt to obstruct justice remains a criminal act. In fact, obstruction is rarely actually completed, merely attempted, but is no less criminal for its shortcomings.
In April, the 449-page Mueller Report was made public (and is available for free in both text and audiobook form), though heavily redacted. There was hope that even if Mueller stuck to the script, which he largely did, the testimony before Congress would reach people in a way that a 449-page report wouldn’t.
And it also gave Mueller the chance to fire back at some ways that report has been misconstrued by President Trump. He did not exonerate the President, Mueller testified under oath. He also made it clear that once Trump leaves office, the interpretation of law that prevented Mueller from issuing any criminal charges against the President would no longer protect him.
Rep. Adam Schiff: "From your testimony today, I gather that you believe that knowingly accepting foreign assistance during a presidential campaign is an unethical thing to do"
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 24, 2019
Mueller also explicitly stated that receiving intelligence from foreign powers on a political rival as part of a campaign is, under most circumstances, a crime.
“The facts you set out in your report and have spoken about today, tell a disturbing tale of a massive Russian interference in our election, of a campaign so eager to win, so driven by greed, it was willing to accept the help of a hostile power in a presidential election decided by a handful of votes in a few key states,” said committee chairman Congressman Adam Schiff (D-California). “Had it been anyone else in the country they would have been indicted.”
(Featured image: C-SPAN/Fair Use)
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor and senior legal reporter for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.
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