Lawyer, lawmaker parse President Trump's Tweets on obstruction of justice

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Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On Sunday morning, Jay Sekulow, one of United States President Donald Trump's personal lawyers, told the press Trump was not being investigated for obstruction of justice connected to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) inquiry into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, run by special counsel Robert S. Mueller. This drew confusion from many quarters because President Trump had himself referred to the investigation via Tweet the previous Thursday and Friday.

"I am being investigated for firing the FBI Director by the man who told me to fire the FBI Director! Witch Hunt" Trump posted early Friday morning, possibly referring to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who wrote a memorandum recommending the firing of then-Director of the FBI James Comey. While Rosenstein did recommend a special counsel be appointed to head the investigation, the special counsel is Robert Mueller, not Rosenstein himself.

Cquote1.svg Let me be very clear here, as it has been since the beginning, the president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction. Cquote2.svg

—President Trump's lawyer, Jay Sekulow

The message that came from Sekulow on Sunday was different. "Let me be very clear here, as it has been since the beginning, the president is not and has not been under investigation for obstruction," he told NBC's Meet the Press.

Addressing newscaster Chuck Todd, Sekulow went on to say, "The president is not under investigation by the special counsel. The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources purportedly leaking information to The Washington Post about a potential investigation of the president."

Former Speaker of the House and fellow Republican Newt Gingrich gave a different interpretation on ABC's This Week: "Trump has a compulsion to counter-attack. I don’t think that tweet helped him."

According to Washington Post and other reports released last week, three officials, Mike Rogers of the National Security Agency (NSA), Daniel Coats of national intelligence, and former NSA deputy Richard Ledgett agreed to be interviewed as part of the investigation.

Cquote1.svg They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Cquote2.svg

—President Trump, on the investigation

Up until then, the investigation, which has already lasted several months, had focused on financial ties or improper communication between members of the Trump campaign and the Russian government. President Trump does not stand accused of collusion of that kind. Rather, Mueller is investigating whether President Trump attempted to stop or obstruct earlier stages of the investigation in any inappropriate way. For example, according to Daniel Coats, Trump asked him to try to convince Mueller's predecessor as director of the FBI, James Comey, to reduce the intensity of his investigation into connections between the Kremlin and then-national security advisor Michael Flynn, though Coats also said he did not feel pressured to comply. Comey later told the U.S. Senate Trump had privately asked him the same, saying, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go." Trump claims this is not true. He later fired Comey over what he called, in an interview, "this Russia thing".

Although another of President Trump's personal attorneys, Marc Kasowitz, has been handling many of the questions about the investigation addressed to his client, President Trump did Tweet about it early Thursday morning: "They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice" and "single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people!"

If Mueller should find evidence the President committed a crime, he is not likely to be charged. Rather, it would be the responsibility of the United States Congress to weigh the evidence and decide whether to start impeachment proceedings, which could remove Trump from office.

Last year, the computer systems of both major U.S. political parties were hacked, and negative information about Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton was leaked to the public. According to an NSA report dated May 5 that was leaked to Intercept earlier this month, this hack was ordered by Russian military intelligence, specifically the Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and not by unaffiliated Russian citizens with "patriotic leanings" as President Vladimir Putin had publicly claimed.


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