Did Trump Obstruct Justice And Did He Intend To?

A Texas expert helps us break down a tricky law and whether it applies to the President of the United States.

By Rhonda FanningMay 17, 2017 10:36 am,

Some Texas Democrats in Washington are suggesting a Trump impeachment. U.S. Rep. Al Green of Houston was the first to call for the president’s impeachment on Monday. U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, also of Houston, and U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela of Brownsville have said it is a possibility.

Texas Republicans, meanwhile, are either waiting to weigh in or are silent.

At issue is whether Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey was an attempt to stop the investigation into possible collusion with Russia.

University of Texas School of Law Professor Stephen I. Vladeck says the pertinent law would be concerning “obstruction of justice.”

“The easiest way to understand obstruction of justice,”Vladeck says “is it’s basically any time that someone who is in a position to influence an ongoing criminal investigation or an ongoing congressional investigation – really any official proceeding either through a threat or through force or through corruption, something that is just sort of bad faith and improper, impedes or tries to impede that proceeding.”

Vladeck says there also has to be not just an action, but some intent. The relevant statute is 18 U.S. Code section 1505.

“So the question is whether someone who is alleged to have obstructed justice did so basically intending to interfere with the investigation,” Vladeck says.

Vladeck says Trump would likely argue he did not intend to interfere with the FBI investigation if the issue ever came before a congressional committee or grand jury. Even more important, Vladeck says, may be the court of public opinion.

“I think some of that, honestly, is going to come down to what happens with the investigation now,” he says. “If it turns out that firing Jim Comey had no effect on the investigation, it may still have crossed the letter of the statute but I’m not sure anyone is going to care that much.”


Written by Laura Rice.