Leonard Zwelling

Harry Litman, a former US attorney, has written an opinion piece in The NY Times on Saturday, January 27, 2018 that does as good a job at outlining the case for obstruction of justice against President Trump as I have seen.

But this should be no surprise.

Since the Trump campaign for president began, the candidate wanted no one to know the truth about his ineptness in business or the source of his wealth, if he is as wealthy as he claims to be. Until he releases his tax returns, we will never truly know what he is worth or from where the money comes. Given his proclivity for bankruptcy, it would come as no surprise that the source of the money he has to pay for the private jets is Russian banks. My guess is that this has been the problem all along. He behaves badly. We know that. Whether or not he caroused with Russian call girls, he certainly paid hush money to a porn star. The Access Hollywood tape is a document of his misogyny. He’s a blowhard and a narcissist. None of that is news.

It only follows though, that as the bloodhounds happened on the trail of his dirty money and his attempts to stop Mr. Comey and Mr. Mueller from finding out the truth, he drifted into obstruction. And I mean drifted, because I have seen it happen before and I doubt the president fully comprehends the case against him. But, he suspects.

Now obstruction itself is rather banal. When you take a presumed unfairness to your supervisor at the workplace and he or she sweeps the complaint under the rug, that’s obstruction. In your eyes, it is actually obstruction of justice. It usually isn’t in the law’s eyes though.

The case of Dr. Larry Nasser and Michigan State and USA Gymnastics suggests that there are dire consequences when people in charge do nothing in the face of evil. It is another form of obstruction. Though passive rather than active, the perpetrators are equally guilty. The president of Michigan State and all the leaders of USAG ought to have resigned. Shame on them!

I have had to withstand obstruction in my own professional life on more than one occasion when I thought that regulations were being subverted, human subject rules ignored, and patient care compromised. When I stood up to the people obstructing my investigation of wrongdoing or frankly reversing the decisions of faculty committees that had meted out significant penalties to other faculty, I lost. First, my credibility. Then, my influence. Then, my job.

The same thing is likely to occur with Mr. Trump. If, before January, 2019, when a new Congress is seated, Mr. Mueller should come back with incontrovertible evidence of the president’s having committed obstruction, there is no way he can be prosecuted on the federal level. Only the House can do anything. Impeach him. And only two-thirds of the Senate can actually oust him. With the current make-up of the Congress and the many doubts being cast on the integrity of Mr. Mueller by those in the president’s own party, there is little chance of that scenario ever coming to pass. Both Nixon and Clinton were hounded when Democrats had control of the Congress. Nixon was gone; Clinton remained.

The greatest obstruction of justice may occur after Mr. Mueller is through with his work if he finds the president guilty and Congress does nothing.

After the latest revelations about Mr. Trump’s proposal to fire Mr. Mueller months ago, count on both a finding of presidential guilt and, like Mr. Clinton before him, no real consequences with his own party in control of the Congress. That will be the true obstruction.

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