In Obstruction of Justice, the President’s Intentions Do Matter

I see a lot of Republican friends saying that the President has the right to fire the FBI Director at will, whether he has cause or not. That is absolutely true. Democrats would do well to remember that. But my Republican friends often follow it up by claiming that because this is true it cannot be obstruction of justice.

That is false.

Under federal law, an otherwise legal act can be obstruction of justice if it was initiated to stop, hinder, or impede a lawful investigation.

In this case, the President told everyone to leave the room then asked Comey to stop the Flynn investigation.

If, as some in the GOP speculated, the President did this because every time he had met with Comey the room had been cleared, then the President is an idiot who should not have done it, but it is not necessarily obstruction.

If, however, someone had advised the President not to do so and the President did it anyway, then there is a very real case for obstruction of justice.

Comey does not have clean hands here. He is a leaker. He is not pure as the driven snow like some are claiming. But the President and his backers cannot hide behind “he had the power to do this.” Because he did, but if his motivation was to impede an investigation as opposed to just wanting to see if he could help a friend, then there are grounds for impeachment.

The problem is that in our hyper-partisan atmosphere there are a lot of people who are sure what the President’s motives were without actually knowing them.

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Erick Erickson

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