During special coverage on MSNBC Sunday, Ari Melber and the former Solicitor General for Barack Obama walked through five examples of where an average person would be prosecuted for obstruction of justice. President Donald Trump, on the other hand, has the benefit of being the president.
First, according to Melber, was that there was substantial evidence of obstruction in Trump’s involvement with trying to save former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. The former Obama administration lawyer, Neal Katyal, cited the common idiom “where there’s smoke there’s fire.” The “fire” for him is Michael Flynn.
“The allegations that the Mueller report lays out are really quite devastating,” he explained. “That shows that Trump went and said to Jim Comey in the Oval Office, ‘Hey, you should really let Michael Flynn go.’ And Trump even denied to Mueller a lot about that and about why he said it. And Mueller’s report finds that Trump’s explanations were not as credible as Jim Comey’s who was consistent throughout his stories and had contemporaneous evidence about it. So, there would be an obstructive act there.”
When it comes to the corrupt intent, Katyal said that “it sure smells really bad.”
“After all, you know, Mueller even lays out evidence that Trump thought that Flynn was lying about what he told the investigators about this gets technical,” he continued. It is about sanctions with Russia and the like.”
The second point is that Trump tried to get rid of the special counsel to protect himself and third that he tried to get his aides to lie for him.
“The obstructed acts there are really going through a long discussion of how the White House counsel, that’s the president’s top lawyer, who is not exactly known for being a stickler about the law, but McGahan was asked by the president to fire Mueller during Mueller’s investigation, and McGahan basically uses a bunch of expletives and says he’s going to resign,” Katyal said. “He then decides to basically not actually implement the order and stay in his job for a little bit longer. But, boy, it is the most dysfunctional scary portrait of a White House counsel who won’t even obey the orders of his client because he thinks they’re fundamentally illegal.”
Melber agreed, saying that one major part of the report that gave him “chills” was when McGahn got off the phone with Trump, the first call he made was to his own personal lawyer.
The fourth point, Melber said, is that Trump tried to quash the Russia probe at all cost. He made a special relationship with Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) who met with the president about the investigation on multiple occasions and ultimately shut down the investigation before any damning information could be uncovered.
Finally, Trump tried to have his former Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, attempt to un-recuse himself from the investigation.
“There is no such thing as unrecusing an Attorney general,” Katyal said. “The United States has important ethics rules for a reason, which is if someone has a conflict of interest, then they can’t serve. All of us when we go into the Justice Department, we have former clients or whatever, and we just can’t work on those things.”
Sessions was no exception.
“Here you have a president, who faced, because he was scared about the Mueller investigation, tried to get rid of it by forcing Sessions, his own attorney general, to unrecuse,” he continued. “I mean, it is astounding. It is conduct unbecoming of anyone in government, let alone the president.”
The host explained that if it were anyone else in this situation, they’d be in jail. Trump may very well get away scot-free.
“If a normal citizen did any one of those let alone five things, they could be charged and convicted. That’s what Michael Cohen and Mike Flynn learned. In the case of the president, Mueller notes it does present indictments,” Melber noted.