The former deputy Attorney General tries to cut through all the obfuscation and spin to the essentials: Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice in the investigation into Russian interference in our democratic elections.
April 28, 2019

One of the difficulties in the Sunday news bookings is back to that awful false balance notion that has plagued the media for years is that we knew that the weekend after the release of the redacted Mueller report would be packed with spinners and politicos throwing out all sorts of garbage.

That's why it's nice to have an actual expert opining on the legal ramifications. It's never going to sway his base, nor curtail the gish-galloping of Kellyanne Conway or Lindsey Graham, but the reality is fairly plain: Robert Mueller felt constrained from pursuing criminal charges against Donald Trump by DOJ guidelines, but if he could, he would have.

In fact, as former deputy Attorney General Sally Yates told Meet the Press guest host Andrea Mitchell, the only thing that is keeping Donald Trump from being anything more than an unindicted co-conspirator (which he absolutely is) is the office in which he occupies. Yates told Mitchell that she's successfully prosecuted obstruction cases with much less evidence.

YATES: “If you read the entire Mueller report, I think it paints a really devastating portrait of a president in a campaign who welcomed a foreign adversary’s illegal interference in our election, who then continually lied about it and then used the power of the presidency to try to thwart an investigation into his own conduct. That’s not exoneration.”

MITCHELL: “Well, the report makes it clear that there was no exoneration on obstruction. But speaking first to the Russian issue, which you just raised, if not for the Office of Legal Counsel prohibition against indicting a president, should there have been further steps? Do you think that there, in fact, on obstruction, would have been an indictment?”

YATES: “Well, you know, I've been a prosecutor for nearly 30 years. And I can tell you, I've personally prosecuted obstruction cases on far, far less evidence than this. And yes, I believe, if he were not the President of the United States, he would likely be indicted on obstruction.”

And if Trump is voted out in 2020, he may still be indicted, although Democrats are notorious for wanting to "look forward" and not hold past bad acts accountable. Still, that threat is enough to worry about what kind of assistance and/or coordination with hostile forces Trump will accept for the general election to ensure that he stays in office past the statute of limitations for these crimes.

But leave it to Yates to get to the bottom line:

"I think, really, the bigger issue is not just whether or not this establishes a crime that can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, but is this the kind of conduct that we should expect from the president of the United States?"

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