How Mueller Essentially Confirmed Obstruction of Justice

How Mueller Essentially Confirmed Obstruction of Justice July 25, 2019

The long-awaited Mueller testimony was relatively boring and uneventful, with no real “gotcha” moments from either party or from Mueller, but Paul Waldman highlights part of the questioning of Robert Mueller that pretty clearly establish that all three elements necessary for an obstruction of justice charge were confirmed in his report.

There are three elements required to prove obstruction:

1. The subject must have committed an “obstructive act.”
2. The act must have been connected to an official inquiry of some sort.
3. The act must have been undertaken with “corrupt intent.”

Rep. Ted Lieu walked Mueller through the findings of the report and how they relate to those elements. The first element:

LIEU: You wrote there on Page 97, “Sessions was being instructed to tell the special counsel to end the existing investigation into the president and his campaign.” That’s in the report, correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

LIEU: That would be evidence of an obstructive act, because it would naturally obstruct the investigation, correct?

MUELLER: Correct.

Since there was a grand jury convened to investigate the matter, the second element is obvious and undeniable. That leaves element three, corrupt intent. Further along in Lieu’s questioning:

LIEU: You wrote, “Substantial evidence indicates that the President’s effort to have Sessions limit the scope of the Special Counsel’s investigation to future election interference was intended to prevent further investigative scrutiny of the President’s and his campaign’s conduct.” That’s in the report, correct?

MUELLER: That is in the report. …

LIEU: … Now we’ve heard that the president ordered Corey Lewandowski to tell Jeff Sessions to limit your investigation so that he — you — stop investigating the president. I believe a reasonable person looking at these facts could conclude that all three elements of the crime of obstruction of justice have been met. And I’d like to ask you, the reason again that you did not indict Donald Trump is because of OLC opinion stating that you cannot indict a sitting president, correct?

MUELLER: That is correct.

Mueller clarified that last part at the afternoon session before the House Intelligence Committee, saying that his report did not reach a conclusion on obstruction and he was only speaking hypothetically. But regardless of that very careful disclaimer, the questioning makes clear that Mueller’s report confirmed that all three elements of obstruction were present. Also interested is that Mueller confirmed that several Trump aides lied to cover up various facts during the investigation and that Trump himself was lying when he said Mueller interviewed for the job of FBI Director, which we long held previously, after James Comey was fired. The first part, at least, could lead to obstruction and perjury charges against those aides who lied.

He also agreed “generally” when Rep. Val Demings asked him about it that in Trump’s written answers to questions submitted by Mueller, he “wasn’t always being truthful.”

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