Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Former DOJ prosecutors charge Trump with obstruction - but does anyone care

538’s significant digits morning email has this alert:

More than 450 former federal prosecutors
Hundreds of former federal prosecutors, from both Democratic and Republican administrations, have signed a statement that says the findings of Robert Mueller would have led to criminal charges of obstruction of justice against President Trump were he not president. The statement and its signatories are a rebuke to Attorney General William Barr, who claimed that the evidence was “not sufficient” to show that Trump committed a crime. [The Washington Post]

Rolling Stone has the more recent numbers in Former Prosecutors: Trump Deserves to Be Charged With ‘Multiple’ Felonies.. Hundreds of former Department of Justice lawyers have signed an open letter arguing Trump would be charged with obstruction of justice if he were not the president.

More than 500 former federal prosecutors have signed on to an open letter declaring that President Trump appears to have has committed numerous felonies, and would already have been charged if he were not the commander in chief.

The open letter, posted to Medium, had been signed by 566 former Justice Department lawyers as of Monday night, including two former chiefs of the criminal division in the Southern District of New York, among other notables.

Parts of the letter, from Medium, follow.

The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming. These include:

· The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;
· The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and
· The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.

Of course, these aren’t the only acts of potential obstruction detailed by the Special Counsel. It would be well within the purview of normal prosecutorial judgment also to charge other acts detailed in the report.

We emphasize that these are not matters of close professional judgment. Of course, there are potential defenses or arguments that could be raised in response to an indictment of the nature we describe here. In our system, every accused person is presumed innocent and it is always the government’s burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But, to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience.

As former federal prosecutors, we recognize that prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk. We believe strongly that, but for the OLC memo, the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report.

Giving Congress the finger

But here is the thing. Barr just blew off Congress’ subpoena for the full Mueller report. No particular reason - he did it because he thinks he can get away with it. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin just refused to hand over Trump’s tax returns, the law notwithstanding. And the guy at the top, King Donald, issued a blanket decree about not honoring any subpoenas from Congress. So if these guys have so little regard for the rule of law and our constitution, why would they worry about what 566 former prosecutors think?

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