As it would appear that the Russian-Trump campaign collusion delusion is slowly being relegated to the dustbin of really good conspiracy theories, the Resistance- aided and abetted by the NeverTrumpers- are left to rely on obstruction of justice. However, even here the history and the evidence suggests otherwise.
As far as history is concerned, there have been two instances of charges of obstruction of justice against a President. In both those cases- Nixon and Clinton- they involved one or several elements: (1) urging others to lie under oath, (2) concealing or destruction of evidence, and/or (3) “buying silence” (in Clinton’s case, handing out appointments). In the case of Trump, we have none of those elements. Instead, the best the detractors can offer is four strands of “evidence” that fall apart upon review.
The first is the denials that his campaign had any contacts with Russian officials or operatives during the campaign. As outlined in previous articles, there are well-documented instances of such contacts; according to the Washington Post, at least 30. The nature of the contacts and what was discussed is largely unknown other than two- Page and Papadopolous apparently trying to set up some meeting. There is also the infamous Trump Tower meeting where Donald Trump, Jr. is duped. As for the Sessions meeting with Kislyak, one was a brief meeting at the convention and another in his Senate office. It is not unusual for a sitting Senator to meet with foreign ambassadors, but the only problem here is the nationality of this particular ambassador. As for Flynn, YES he lied about his conversation and he suffered the consequences for that lie.
However, given the somewhat unorthodox and seemingly chaotic nature of the Trump campaign, it is more than conceivable that Trump knew nothing about the actions of his subordinates. Trump, as a businessman, is not a traditional CEO. Instead, he is more a brand than a nuts-and-bolts operator. He may set a broad agenda and then let underlings do the grunt work. In this context, one can see, given his comments about Putin and Russia, why those underlings would act the way they did. To date, there is not a shred of evidence that Trump himself ordered their actions or was even aware of them.
The second thing that does not add up under scrutiny is the firing of James Comey. We have nothing but the word of Comey versus that of Trump. Quite frankly, neither one is a reliable witness. Comey claims to have taken notes which is all well and good, but absent disinterested, third party witnesses, those notes mean squat. Here, Trump’s big mouth again gets him in trouble. The Director of the FBI, being a part of the Executive Branch, serves at the discretion and pleasure of the President. Where Trump should have stopped is explaining the firing as being due to Comey’s handling of the Clinton private server investigation. But he didn’t and later told Lester Holt of NBC that the Russian investigation played a role in his decision.
First, since when does a television interview with Lester Holt rise to the level of a statement under oath? In fact, the Comey firing led directly to the appointment of Robert Mueller and was a major political miscalculation on the part of a non-politician. And, incidentally, expecting loyalty from someone who serves at your discretion is not a crime either, especially in an environment of leaks. Lest anyone forget, this is the first sitting President who had to the best of my recollection transcripts of conversations with foreign leaders leaked to the press. Asking someone to drop an investigation of someone because “he’s a good guy” (Flynn) is a far cry from asking someone to drop an investigation period. Regardless, we have since discovered that Comey is not the saint everyone believed him to be. His calculated “leak” to an associate knowing full well that leak would make the papers in order to get a special prosecutor appointed shows a high degree of mischief and skullduggery and, quite frankly, sleaze on the part of Comey.
The third alleged shred of evidence is the drafting of a letter used to explain the Trump Tower meeting between Trump, Jr. and a Russian lawyer. This was intended as a release to the press and contrary to popular belief by some, misleading or even lying to the press is not a crime. Although we certainly expect higher of our elected leaders, if we were to use this standard then every President would be guilty of obstruction of justice.
Finally, some have alleged that Trump’s Twitter attacks on the FBI and the intelligence community are a form of obstruction to control the narrative. If so, then they have been a failure since we now have an open-ended special prosecutor investigation, several Congressional investigations, every journalist within earshot of Washington looking for the latest scoop and an intelligence community just recently warning of Russian interference and meddling in the 2018 midterm elections.
Even still, one has to come to the conclusion that the actions of the FBI and others leave a lot to be desired. Whether it was their bungling of the Clinton server investigation, the behind-the-scenes attempts to discredit Trump, the sleaziness of Comey, etc. their behaviors deserve calling out and investigation also. Trump is not discrediting law enforcement or the intelligence community; he is discrediting the bad eggs within those entities with their own political agendas. They don’t need Trump to discredit them; they are doing a fine job of doing it to themselves.
If there is no collusion, then what is there to cover up, or obstruct in the parlance of the law? My best guess is the criticism is predicated upon the open-ended nature of the Mueller probe. Considering that Mueller has hired several experts in financial crimes, this is likely Trump’s biggest fear, not so much for himself. Most of his financial dealings have been well researched and documented. Instead, he likely worries that the Mueller investigation as it concerns finances will turn up one of two things, if not both.
The first is damage to his brand. There is a very good reason Trump never released his tax returns- they would prove that most of his income is derived from licensing his name and without the name, his worth decreases. In fact, this writer seriously doubts Trump’s actual worth is what he claims his worth to be. Many independent sources have come to the same conclusion. Additionally, that worth may be built upon a shaky foundation of leveraged deals.
The second is the possibility that the investigation will uncover financial criminal wrong-doing by a family member, particularly Jared Kushner. The real scandal may not involve Russia at all but another geopolitical adversary- China. Their involvement in Kushner’s 666 Fifth Avenue debacle is one area of concern. The SEC investigation of abuse of the EB-5 visa program by Kushner’s real estate company is also a concern. Adding to the intrigue is a loan received from the notorious Deutsche Bank to Kushner especially in light of that bank’s $425 million fine paid to New York as the result of a multi-billion dollar money laundering scheme involving Russians. That loan money has been funneled into real estate projects in Maryland.
In the end, this Mueller probe is likely to end in some indictments for financial crimes and perhaps some process crimes against Americans, but little else. However, one can rest assured that as even today people disbelieve that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone gunman, fifty years from now people will believe that the Russians stole the election for Donald Trump.