Mueller’s Four Findings on Trump’s Obstruction of Justice

According to a report from NBC News, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has collected four findings on Donald Trump’s attempt to obstruct justice.

  1. His intent to fire former FBI Director James Comey;
  2. His role in the crafting of a misleading public statement on the nature of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between his son and Russians;
  3. Trump’s dangling of pardons before grand jury witnesses who might testify against him; and
  4. Pressuring Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia investigation.

The use of the word “intent” in that first one could be significant, as explained by Renato Mariatti.

Impeding or influencing an FBI investigation is a crime only if it is done with “corrupt” intent—in other words, the intent to wrongfully impede the administration of justice.

It had recently been reported that Mueller would present his findings on this charge in June or July. According to this report, the raid on Michael Cohen’s offices might have changed that because the president has indicated that, as a result, he is not likely to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team.

Prior to Monday’s raid, Mueller’s team had been aiming to finalize a report on its findings on whether the president has tried to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation in the coming months, as early as May or as late as July, three sources said. That timeline hinged in part on reaching a decision on a presidential interview, these people said. One person familiar with the investigation described a decision on an interview as one of the last steps Mueller was seeking to take before closing his investigation into obstruction.

Now, according to two sources, Mueller’s team may be able to close the obstruction probe more quickly as they will not need to prepare for the interview or follow up on what the president says.

So what happens next?

Mueller would then likely send a confidential report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is overseeing the Russia investigation. Rosenstein could decide whether to make the report public and send its findings to Congress. From there, Congress would then decide whether to begin impeachment proceedings against the president, said two of the sources.

Two things stand out to me about this report. First of all, who leaked this information? Since Mueller took over as special counsel, leaks have generally seemed to come from sources being interviewed and/or their lawyers. It is difficult to imagine this one coming from anyone but the investigators. If that is the case, you have to wonder why Mueller would want Trump to know that the axe is about to fall on obstruction of justice charges. I’m simply speculating here, but perhaps he wants to pressure Trump into slowing things down by agreeing to be interviewed.

Secondly, if Mueller does finalize his report on obstruction of justice charges without an interview with the president, that is likely to happen pretty soon. As I’ve been suggesting, it will then be up to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to decide what to do with the report. He will make three decisions:

  1. Whether to send the report or a summary to Congress
  2. Whether to release the report or a summary publicly
  3. Whether to use the findings to file a criminal indictment

That is precisely why so many of Trump’s aids have been advising him to fire Rosenstein and, as CNN reported, the effort to prepare for that is already underway.

The White House is preparing talking points designed to undermine Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s credibility, according to sources familiar with the plan.

The plan calls on President Donald Trump’s allies to cast Rosenstein as too conflicted to fairly oversee the Russia investigation.

Keeping all of that in mind, I’d simply say “ditto” to Rachel Maddow’s advice.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.