Trump Admitted That Firing Rosenstein or Mueller Would Be Obstruction

Reporters at Bloomberg thought they had a story about Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein confirming to Trump that he is not a target of either the Mueller probe or the Cohen investigation.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein told President Donald Trump last week that he isn’t a target of any part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or the probe into his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, according to several people familiar with the matter.

Rosenstein, who brought up the investigations himself, offered the assurance during a meeting with Trump at the White House last Thursday, a development that helped tamp down the president’s desire to remove Rosenstein or Mueller, the people said.

In gathering information about that meeting, they actually stumbled on something that is a lot more significant.

After the meeting, Trump told some of his closest advisers that it’s not the right time to remove either man since he’s not a target of the probes.

If that accurately captures what the president said, he indicated that the time to fire Rosenstein and/or Mueller would come when he is a target of the investigation. In other words, Trump isn’t evaluating this decision based on their job performance, but is solely looking at it from the vantage point of his own legal jeopardy. That’s a classic definition of obstruction of justice.

As we have been reminded, to legally convict someone of obstruction of justice hinges on the issue of intent.

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. In my experience, proving a defendant’s intent without direct evidence—that is, without statements by the defendant that directly reveal his or her intent—is challenging.

If at some point in the future it becomes clear that Trump is a target of either investigation and the president moves to fire Rosenstein or Mueller, he has already stated his corrupt intent.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.