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More than 600 former federal prosecutors have now signed an open letter stating Donald Trump would’ve been charged with obstruction of justice if he weren’t president of the United States.
The letter, published Monday, reads: “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.”
Attorney General William Barr, of course, declined to pursue obstruction charges against Trump, arguing in his summary that evidence compiled by Mueller was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.” The report from the special counsel does, however, present quite a lot of instances where Trump may have obstructed justice, including telling White House lawyer Don McGahn to curb the special counsel or fire him.
The letter from the federal prosecutors asserted there were “several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge,” including Trump’s efforts to fire Mueller, his efforts to limit the scope of the probe and his “efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators.”
The Mueller report noted that Trump’s attempts to interfere with the probe were “largely unsuccessful” but that was because “the persons who surrounded the president declined to carry out orders or accede to his request.”
Barr’s handling of the Mueller report has drawn outrage from Democrats, who have repeatedly accused the AG of acting more like Trump’s personal defense attorney than the nation’s top law official. Those tensions boiled over last week when Barr opted to skip his scheduled testimony before the House Judiciary Committee after a contentious showing on the Senate the day before.
The letter — signed by high-profile folks like Jeffrey Harris, who worked with Rudy Giuliani, and former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld, a Republican running against Trump in 2020 — is likely to only further grow the rift between Congress and the DOJ.
“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,” the open letter reads. “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.”
The ex-prosecutors who signed-on to the letter have served under both Republican and Democratic administrations. Some have decades of DOJ experience. The open letter, which began with nearly 400 signatures, said signatories had “been vetted to the best of [their] ability.”
By Tuesday midday more than 660 people had signed on.
“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,” the letter concluded. “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.”
Cover: President Donald Trump and First lady Melania Trump, left, smile during a one year anniversary event for her Be Best initiative in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, May 7, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)