WASHINGTON — Nearly 400 former federal prosecutors have signed on to a statement concluding that President Trump would be facing obstruction of justice charges were he not in the White House.
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has a policy against the indictment of a sitting president, but the prosecutors conclude that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on the Russia investigation provides ample evidence to bring charges that Trump obstructed justice.
“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,” the prosecutors said in the statement.
The group Protect Democracy organized the statement in the wake of the release of a redacted version of the Mueller report. The view of the prosecutors conflicts with that of Attorney General William Barr, who, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, concluded that the evidence gathered was not enough to bring charges.
Instead, the prosecutors conclude that there was “overwhelming” evidence of corrupt intent and connection to a pending investigation, two elements needed to bring obstruction charges. They cited instances outlined in Mueller’s report, including Trump’s efforts to fire Mueller and then “to falsify evidence about that effort.” They also point to efforts to limit the investigation, and to try to influence the extent of cooperation that Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort provided to Mueller’s team.
“Despite being advised by then-White House Counsel Don McGahn that he could face legal jeopardy for doing so, Trump directed McGahn on multiple occasions to fire Mueller or to gin up false conflicts of interest as a pretext for getting rid of the Special Counsel,” the prosecutors wrote.
They added their view was not a matter of “close professional judgment.”
“Of course, there are potential defenses or arguments that could be raised in response to an indictment of the nature we describe here,” they wrote. “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. 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 statement was first reported by the Washington Post.
The prosecutors do not say how Congress should consider the Mueller report, or if they should pursue impeachment. House Democrats are calling for Mueller to testify, but no date has been set.
Trump, meanwhile, is opposed to Mueller’s testimony and insisted that he has been cleared.
He wrote in a tweet on Sunday, “After spending more than $35,000,000 over a two year period, interviewing 500 people, using 18 Trump Hating Angry Democrats & 49 FBI Agents – all culminating in a more than 400 page Report showing NO COLLUSION – why would the Democrats in Congress now need Robert Mueller…….
“Are they looking for a redo because they hated seeing the strong NO COLLUSION conclusion? There was no crime, except on the other side (incredibly not covered in the Report), and NO OBSTRUCTION. Bob Mueller should not testify. No redos for the Dems!”