President Donald Trump does not like to be investigated. But Trump’s behavior, and that of his campaign throughout the 2016 presidential election cycle, as well as the president’s behavior during his first six months in office, necessitate, even demand, criminal investigation.
In a May 2017 The Atlantic article, David A. Graham said, “Donald Trump entered the White House as one of the most scandal-tarred presidents in American history—what his imbroglios may have lacked in depth, they made up in variety, encompassing legal, ethical, and sexual controversies … They range from race discrimination to mafia connections, from petty hypocrisies to multimillion-dollar alleged frauds.”
No Respect for Rule of Law
As difficult as it may be for the president’s supporters to accept, Donald Trump does not, has never, and will never respect the rule of law. The only rule he had ever lived by is that wealth, and the power it accumulates, gives him both the privilege and authority to do whatever he pleased regardless of its illegality or immorality.
But the president very well may be nearing a point in his life, and at a critical point in this nation’s history, where he learns that the rule of law is more powerful than wealth and even the presidency of the United States.
This nation is now enduring both the political and social trauma of having its president criminally investigated because his campaign may have colluded with a hostile foreign power to get him elected and because the president himself may have obstructed, or attempted to obstruct, this investigation with his firing of former FBI Director James Comey who was leading the investigation.
And as if these related possibilities are not enough, the president in a recent New York Times article suggested he might fire U.S. Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, who is currently conducting the Russia/Trump campaign investigation, if Mueller expands his investigation to the president and/or his family’s personal finances and tax records.
Beyond Statute of Limitations?
In a recent Bloomberg article, the president’s lead attorney, John Dowd, said this about the Mueller investigation: “In my view [the investigation has gone] well beyond the mandate of the Special counsel, are unrelated to the election of 2016 or any alleged collusions between the Trump campaign and Russia and most importantly, are beyond any Statute of Limitation imposed by the United States Code.”
That statement implies that the president’s defense team has investigated some, if not all, of the possible crimes the president may have committed, including some acts unrelated to the recent election and possible obstruction, which would clearly be within the statute of limitations.
Did Russians Interfere with a US Presidential Election
As for the mandate of the Mueller investigation, the special counsel has been charged with the authority to investigate whether the Russians interfered with 2016 presidential election to get Donald Trump elected.
The obvious, additional question in these kinds of investigation is this: was there a criminal quid pro quo?
Quid Pro Quo
Put simply, did the Russians help Trump win the election in order to secure preferential policy consideration in exchange for assisting the president with any of his financial interests and obligations, including his family’s finances?
That investigation transcends mere “collusion” between Trump’s campaign staff and Russian representatives. Collusion could entail violations of certain election laws while a criminal quid pro quo conspiracy could involve a host of overt acts necessary to constitute a criminal conspiracy.
It is this criminal quid pro quo investigation the president has spent much of his first six months in office trying to discredit. These efforts have been so blatant that they created yet another line of criminal investigation: whether the president crossed the line into obstruction of justice with his attempts to both interfere with and control the direction of the investigation.
Threats to Fire Investigators Could be Element of Obstruction
President Trump fired James Comey because of the “Russia investigation.” He admitted as much in a nationally televised news interview.
And in the New York Times interview, the president has threatened to have Mueller fired if the Special Counsel’s investigation gets too close to the “finances” of the Trump Empire.
In the meantime, the president has instructed his defense team to dig up any “dirt” it can find on Mueller and the dozen or more former federal prosecutors the Special Counsel has added to his staff.
Getting “dirt” on real or perceived enemies is a tactic of choice by the president and his family. Donald Trump, Jr. took the now infamous June 2016 meeting with Russian representatives in hopes of getting “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
Obstruction of Justice
It is just this kind of behavior exhibited by the president, his family members, and his close political associates that prompted lawmakers at both the federal and state levels to enact obstruction of justice laws designed to protect the integrity of legal proceedings and criminal investigations.
Obstruction of justice charges, more often than not, are brought against public officials—prosecutors, attorneys general, judges, and other elected officials. But anyone who interferes with the administration of justice—whether it be a criminal investigation or a criminal or civil trial—does so to keep the truth about criminal or civil wrongdoing from being revealed.
Whether or not the president’s blatant efforts to interfere with the Russia/Trump investigation are sufficient to bring an obstruction of justice charge against him is a decision the Special Counsel must make. The nation can rest assured that it will be a thoughtful, deliberate, and legal decision whatever it may be.
Purely Political or Criminal?
President Trump, and his supporters, can blame the “fake” news media, the Deep State, and/or the Democrats for the scandalous woes currently gripping the nation. But it was, and remains, the president and his inner circle who created these scandals. It is now the job of the Special Counsel and Congress to decide if the scandals are purely political or actually criminal.
The duty of this president, or any president, is to conduct the nation’s affairs with the dignity and integrity the American presidency demands and to let the administration of justice run its course.