“Trump’s lawyer sparks intense debate on obstruction of justice”
President Trump’s personal lawyer kicked off a fiery debate on Monday with one controversial statement: The president cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice.
The assertion comes in the wake of a presidential tweet, which legal analysts dubbed anywhere from “cataclysmic” to “a non-story,” that raised questions about whether Trump has put himself in legal peril in the federal investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The United States has embraced a longstanding norm of Justice Department independence from the White House, but it’s not enshrined in constitutional law, several scholars told The Hill. Legally, as the chief executive, the president has the authority to guide the direction of any FBI investigation he sees fit.
“He is the FBI. He’s the attorney general. He possesses all power under Article II of the Constitution,” said Robert Ray, the former independent counsel for the Whitewater controversy during the Clinton administration.
As a practical matter, that provision of the founding document makes it structurally impossible for the Department of Justice to indict its own boss, some scholars say.
“The facts can be brought to the attention of the Congress in a report and they can decide to do with them what they will, but the notion that any of that is going to result in criminal charges I think is completely a fantasy,” Ray said.