Donald Trump’s New Legal Defense In Russia Probe: The President Can’t Obstruct Justice

Trump lawyers worry that answering questions for special counsel Robert Mueller may not be in the president’s best interest.

Oliver Douliery-PoolGetty Images

Lawyers for the president of the United States have long been dead-set against the prospect of Trump having to answer questions for special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing probe into a number of potentially criminal implications involving the 2016 election campaign and Trump’s presidency. Along with questionable ties to Russia, Mueller’s team is also investigating potential instances of President Donald Trump committing obstruction of justice, both in the past and ongoing.

Today, the New York Times published a report which suggests Trump believes obstruction of justice does not apply to him. In the full 20-page report sent by Trump’s lawyers to special counsel and provided by the NYT, a total of 16 points are explicitly listed as areas to be addressed before Mueller could conclude his investigations “of alleged collusion and obstruction of justice.”

Among those points of interest most crucial to the unprecedented investigation are numerous queries into Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s contact with Russian Ambassador Kislyak and what role Vice President Mike Pence might have played in those contacts. Other key points of interest include Mr. Trump’s reactions to Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation, the president’s interactions with Former FBI director James Comey, and statements made by Trump regarding Russian meetings at Trump Tower involving Donald Trump, Jr.

Attorneys representing Trump assert that the president cannot obstruct justice, as to do so would be to obstruct himself, reminding special counsel Robert Mueller that at any time, the commander-in-chief could end the investigation and furthermore wield his executive power to pardon all parties involved, if charged. Although the report asserts a presence of transparency from Mr. Trump and his administration, the report also makes mention of specific “parameters” allegedly agreed upon by special council, to which the president had also agreed, implying that the investigation had potentially exceeded those parameters, causing discomfort to legal council and their client, Donald J. Trump.

Robert Mueller (2nd L) leaves after a closed meeting with members of the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Trump lawyers imply that even if this is obstruction, The President can’t be held accountable. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)Featured image credit: Alex WongGetty Images

As to the legality of Trump’s legal team making the claim that the president can’t be held accountable for his actions, this is historically uncharted territory. Robert Mueller’s team is declining any comment at the moment, while Harvard Law School Professor and overseer of the Justice Dartment’s Office of Legal Counsel during President George W. Bush’s occupation of the Oval Office told the New York Times that this remains an “open question.”

As seems to be common, the president took to Twitter earlier today in an apparent attempt to get ahead of this incoming news bombshell, hurling insults in the direction of any publication he personally deems to be part of the “Fake News Media.”

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This type of vitriol from the president aimed at negative news coverage, however factual, has become a regular occurrence since the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States. While his core base revels in the disparagement of news outlets they perceive as dishonest, Trump’s political opposition remains shocked by what they perceive is a lack of ethics and professionalism coming from the office of the president.

Midterm elections are set to happen this November, with Donald Trump coming due for re-election or replacement in November of 2020. Trump is actively campaigning for Republican officials who will be appearing on ballots across the country in the upcoming midterms, an election which will have a significant impact on his overall power as president. If House or Senate seats are flipped to a Democrat majority, Trump would lose much of the leverage he’s enjoyed for the past year and a half. If Republican majorities are upheld, it’s likely the next two years will be a repeat of the previous.

As to what impact Mueller’s investigation will have on election results, that remains to be seen. Democrats seem to be holding out hope that Mueller will see cause to bring charges against the president and administration, either for collusion, obstruction, or both, but as the true findings of the Russia investigation are not public knowledge as of yet, the likelihood of such indictments remain ambiguous.

As with all elections, voter turnout will ultimately be the deciding factor on Donald Trump’s longevity as president.