Echoing Sen. King yesterday it’s very important to note that obstruction of justice is about WORDS and their CONTENT, not about FEELINGS. Republicans will try to twist this and claim that individuals did not FEEL that the President tried to obstruct justice.
Seth Abramson is a professor of law and contributor to the WaPo that has been all over these issues. These are his guide to understanding obstruction.
- Obstruction of Justice IS a legal term and federal criminal statute. It has a strict legal definition. It is NOT open to interpretation.
- Obstruction of Justice is NOT a political term. Politicians may NOT define it in whatever way pleases them or may advantage their party.
- But the history of impeachments—impeachment being a political process—establishes that Obstruction of Justice IS an impeachable offense.
- If public testimony establishes a “prima facie” case of Obstruction of Justice—a sufficient case on its face—Trump SHOULD be impeached.
- The federal Obstruction of Justice statute does NOT take into account—or care about whatsoever—how a defendant’s actions made you FEEL.
- The Obstruction of Justice statute ALSO does NOT take into account—or care about at all—whether an investigation was in FACT obstructed.
- Questions tomorrow about how Trump’s actions made Jim Comey FEEL—or about whether those actions IMPEDED an investigation—are IRRELEVANT.
- As an attorney, I know Tweet #7 will be confusing to some people. But remember we are discussing a *strictly defined* criminal act here.
- Obstruction of Justice IS about *actions* of the defendant. It is NOT about the *specific intent* of the defendant in acting as he did.
- This is because Obstruction of Justice is NOT a “specific intent” crime. It requires only the defendant’s knowledge of HOW he’s acting.
- As the subsection of the Obstruction of Justice statute relevant here involves words, a defendant’s knowledge of his words is PRESUMED.
- Therefore any Obstruction of Justice case against President Trump IS about—almost exclusively—the nature of the words he said to Comey.
- If the words Comey CONTEMPORANEOUSLY RECORDED as having been said by Trump were indeed said, Trump IS guilty of Obstruction of Justice.
- What this means is—as we’ve already seen Comey’s opening statement—we KNOW that he will allege Trump committed Obstruction of Justice.
- It does NOT matter if Comey says he didn’t FEEL Trump was obstructing justice. It might’ve helped a prosecution, but it is unnecessary.
- Tomorrow we’ll see a concerted GOP effort—it actually started at today’s hearing—to misinform us about what Obstruction of Justice is.
- The reason the GOP must misinform us about what Obstruction of Justice is? THEY established—with Clinton—it IS an impeachable offense.
- And under “Obstruction by Intimidation, Threats, Persuasion, or Deception (18 U.S.C. 1512[b]), Trump DID “attempt to persuade” Comey.
- His “attempt to persuade” involved words whose clear meaning would have been to impede or end a pending federal criminal investigation.
- So DON’T let GOP pols or pundits—or conservative pals—use disinformation about Obstruction of Justice to obscure how historic today is.
- Another lie you’ll hear tomorrow is Obstruction of Justice is hard to prove. It isn’t—at all. Because it’s NOT a specific intent crime.
- As only Comey and Trump were present when the words making up the case were said—by Trump’s design—this SEEMS a “he said/he said” case.
- This too is a sort of lie. Comey a) contemporaneously memorialized the conduct, and b) is testifying about it under penalty of perjury.
- On this record, NO reasonable juror could conclude Trump didn’t commit Obstruction of Justice—especially as Trump won’t deny the words.
- What this means is, Mueller WILL report to Congress that—were Trump not president—Mueller would indict him for Obstruction of Justice.
(PS) If you’re looking for a shorthand for tomorrow: in Obstruction of Justice, WORDS and their CONTEXT matter; FEELINGS and EFFECTS do not.