Writing for MSNBC, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance outlined how Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) is using one of former President Donald Trump's most infamous tactics to get out of federal prosecutors' crosshairs — but argued it is likely to end worse for him than it did for the former president.
Specifically, according to new reports, Gaetz may be obstructing justice amid the probe into whether he and a Florida tax official transported a teenager across state lines for sex — and prosecutors are now looking into it.
"Prosecutors, following Congress's lead, take obstruction seriously because it threatens the integrity of our criminal justice system and cuts at the heart of justice," wrote Vance. "Obstruction cannot be tolerated or ignored. And, as a practical matter, people tend to obstruct when they have something to hide. An obstruction charge can underscore a defendant's knowledge that he violated the law and provide additional proof of the underlying charges."
"Beyond Gaetz's individual alleged crimes, which include the trafficking of a minor and possibly extend to public corruption, we are waiting to see whether the allegations of obstruction prove true and whether they signal a broader trend among former President Donald Trump's self-styled political successors," wrote Vance. "Trump unabashedly criticized judges he disagreed with and publicly encouraged his attorneys general to prosecute his enemies and protect his friends. In this, his conduct was unique among our political leaders. He envisioned a criminal justice system he could manipulate for his personal benefit. Unlike President Richard Nixon, who turned over his tapes when a court told him to and President Bill Clinton, who submitted to prosecutor's questioning, Trump consistently held himself above the law."
Ultimately, concluded Vance, if obstruction is found in the Gaetz case, prosecutors should throw the book at him to send the message that Trump's behavior cannot be a new norm for politicians.
"If investigators do prove that Gaetz tried to prevent a witness from testifying against him or alter their testimony, he should be pursued with the full force of the law," wrote Vance. "This must happen so that justice is done in this specific case. But on a much broader level, this case is a test of a criminal justice system dramatically undermined by our last president. Interfering with justice cannot become the new norm. And we cannot tolerate any more efforts by our politicians to hold themselves above the law."
Gaetz denies any wrongdoing, and his office has issued a statement saying, "Congressman Gaetz pursues justice, he doesn't obstruct it."
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