Hundreds of former federal prosecutors: Trump guilty of obstruction of justice
Reversing himself, President Trump says now that he doesn't want to allow Special Counsel Robert Mueller to testify before Congress. | AP

WASHINGTON—After reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report, some 375 former federal prosecutors have concluded GOP President Donald Trump obstructed justice in his attempts to derail or halt the investigation into Russian manipulation of the 2016 presidential election.

And the latest opinion poll on the issue says 54% of those surveyed — a representative sample of the U.S. population — agree with them, while 42% don’t. By a 2-to-1 ratio, 57%-28%, the voters say Trump broke the law before he took office. But they deadlock 46%-46% of whether he committed crimes while president.

The questions asked by those pollsters, however, don’t include what many consider even worse acts of obstruction and subversion of the constitution being conducted by the administration right now. Those include Attorney General William Barr’s lies to the Congress about the Mueller report and Mueller’s reactions to his (Barr’s) mischaracterization of that report, Barr’s resistance to testifying before the House Judiciary Committee, Trump’s insistence that none of his current or past aides can testify before Congress and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s refusal to obey the law and turn over Trump’s tax returns to Congress. Mnuchin’s violations are only part of the Trump administration’s refusal to turn over any of the documents demanded by Congress, regardless of what they are. Since the submission of the Mueller report then the administration has actually stepped up obstruction by engaging in illegal subversion of the constitutionally mandated oversight role of the Congress.

Nevertheless, by a 66%-29% margin, the 1,044 scientifically selected voters surveyed oppose impeaching Trump – possibly, one analyst observed, because the GOP-run Senate would never convict him. The voters split almost evenly, though — 47% for-51% against – on whether the House should  “investigate to determine” whether Trump committed impeachable offenses. Nine of every ten Republicans answered “no” to that question, while 84% of Democrats said “yes.”

The prosecutors’ statement comes as the House Judiciary Committee, which has the power to investigate, and, if necessary, impeach Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors under the U.S. Constitution, is moving towards a confrontation with Trump’s hand-picked Attorney General-turned-defense lawyer, William Barr, over subpoenaing Mueller’s entire report on the election and the actions of Trump and his team to obstruct the probe.

It also comes as former FBI General Counsel Jim Baker – not to be confused with the former GOP Secretary of State during the George H.W. Bush years – plans to speak out on the issue on May 10.

Baker served as the agency’s top lawyer even as Trump fired his boss, agency Director James Comey and engaged in the other obstructive actions the prosecutors cite – including repeated trashing of the FBI and lying about agents’ attitude towards Comey.

The prosecutors, organized as the DOJ Alumni Association, served under presidents of both parties. They include line attorneys, supervisors, special prosecutors, and former U.S. attorneys.

“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting president, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” the group said.

“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.”

That includes Trump ordering his former counsel, Don McGahn, to fire Mueller and – when McGahn refused – to lie about it. McGahn refused to lie. He quit instead.

“Firing Mueller would have seriously impeded the investigation of the President and his associates — obstruction in its most literal sense. Directing the creation of false government records in order to prevent or discredit truthful testimony is similarly unlawful,” the former prosecutors said.

“The Special Counsel’s report states: ‘Substantial evidence indicates that in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was ordered to have the Special Counsel terminated, the president acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn’s account in order to deflect or prevent scrutiny of the President’s conduct toward the investigation.’”

Citing the report, the prosecutors said Trump engaged in “multiple efforts to curtail the scope” of Mueller’s probe. They included Trump’s order to then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to undo his recusal, jump back in and “protect” the president, and a later demand that Sessions order Mueller to limit his probe to future foreign influence actions.

Trump’s “interference was intended to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the president’s and his campaign’s conduct” Mueller reported. “In other words, the president employed a private citizen,” former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski, “to try to get the Attorney General to limit the scope of an ongoing investigation into the president and his associates,” the former prosecutors add.

Trump also tried witness tampering and some intimidation, too, they said.

“All of this conduct — trying to control and impede the investigation against the president by leveraging his authority over others —is similar to conduct we have seen charged against other public officials and people in powerful positions.”

“We emphasize these are not matters of close professional judgment…But, to look at these facts and say 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.


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.