Who Leaked the Letter From Trump’s Legal Team?

Donald Trump tweeted that it was the special counsel or the Department of Justice that leaked a memo his legal team had written to Robert Mueller in January.

But as Michael Schmidt, one of the authors of the New York Times article about the letter suggested, that tweet was sent out before it was published.

Well…isn’t that interesting? Perhaps the president and his legal team had been given a heads up that the letter was about to be published. But much more likely is the possibility that they were the ones who did the leaking in the first place.

There is very little to suggest that any opponents of Trump would benefit from the disclosure of a legal position that Trump is above the law. The most likely beneficiary would be Trump himself, as he and his legal team seek to make that theory mainstream. It’s a theory that has already been advanced by his legal representatives and his supporters on Fox News.

If Trump wanted to push the notion that he cannot be questioned or indicted, then a good way to do that would be to get the New York Times to publish his own lawyers’ interpretation of the law. But he couldn’t allow it to be known that the leak came from his team. So he would then post a tweet pointing the finger of blame to the Justice Department or the special counsel, who he has already sought to discredit.

The gist of the letter is that the president cannot be charged with obstruction of justice.

It remains our position that the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired.

This morning Trump repeated that he has the power to pardon himself and made another outlandish legal claim.

The president and his legal team have now claimed that Trump can start or stop any investigation, that he can pardon himself and that the special counsel is unconstitutional. In other words, the suggestion is that he is completely above the law.

I’m starting to guess that all of this hysteria means that Mueller might be about to drop a bomb. Back in mid-April, NBC News was reporting that the release of his findings on obstruction of justice was imminent.

Prior to Monday’s raid [of Michale Cohen’s offices], 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.

What better way to preempt a potential finding of obstruction of justice than to leak a letter claiming that the president cannot constitutionally be charged with obstruction of justice and then to build on that with claims that he can pardon himself and that the special counsel is unconstitutional? If NBC News is right that Mueller has simply been waiting to determine whether or not Trump will agree to an interview, we’ve watched Rudy Giuliani play with that question for over a month now. Perhaps time is running out and the current occupant of the White House knows it.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.