On the one hand, according to the Mueller report, President Trump is not clearly guilty of obstruction because he wanted to obstruct but was prevented from doing so by disobedient subordinates:
On the other hand, according to Attorney General Barr, Trump did engage in acts that could be considered obstruction, but they're not obstruction because he was motivated by anger:
President Trump didn't collude with Russia and he sincerely thought the investigation on the matter was a politically motivated witch hunt. This is Attorney General William Barr's explanation of why Trump wasn't obstructing justice when he took actions that could have interfered with the investigation....
Some explanation: Mens rea, a Latin term meaning knowledge of wrongdoing, is central to any consideration of criminal conduct. The same action could be legal or illegal depending on whether it was taken with corrupt intent or not.
"There was in fact no collusion," Barr said. "And as the Special Counsel’s report acknowledges, there is substantial evidence to show that the President was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks.... Apart from whether the acts were obstructive, this evidence of non-corrupt motives weighs heavily against any allegation that the President had a corrupt intent to obstruct the investigation."
So if Trump intended to commit a crime but was thwarted, it wasn't a crime. And if committed what could be regarded as a crime but didn't intend it as a crime, it wasn't a crime.
Also see Mueller's conclusion that Donald Trump Jr. couldn't be indicted, in part because Mueller's office "did not obtain admissible evidence likely to meet the government’s burden to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that [Trump Jr.] acted “willfully,” i.e. with general knowledge of the illegality of [his] conduct," otherwise known as the Junior-was-too-stupid-to-know-what-he-was-doing defense.
And sometimes this is true for non-black men. Prior to shooting Gabby Giffords in Tucson in 2011, Jared Lee Loughner was a disturbed young man who spent much of time posting items like this online:
If B.C.E. years are unable to start then A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
B.C.E. years are unable to start.
Thus, A.D.E. years are unable to begin.
If I teach a mentally capable 8 year old for 20 consecutive minutes to replace an alphabet letter with a new letter and pronounciation then the mentally capable 8 year old writes and pronounces the new letter and pronunciation that's replacing an alphabet letter in 20 consecutive minutes.
I teach a mentally capable 8 year old for 20 consecutive minutes to replace an alphabet letter with a new letter and pronounciation.
Thus, the mentally capable 8 year old writes and pronounces the new letter and pronunciation that's replacing an alphabet letter in 20 consecutive minutes.
After his arrest, Loughner was twice diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. But he was medicated, then found competent to stand trial. He pled guilty and was sentenced to life plus 140 years in prison.
And going back to the question of whether we should ignore intent to commit a crime when the would-be criminal is thwarted by law-abiding people: How many times since 9/11 have the authorities arrested, tried, and convicted someone who thought he was buying weapons for a terrorist attack, only to learn later that the seller was an undercover FBI agent?
Maybe there are excellent legal reasons for the discrepancy in the ways we treat high-powered white-collar suspects and other suspects on questions of state of mind. But it defies common sense.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog