By James A. Wilson
The old aphorism about the inmates running the asylum rings of stark truth between the House of Representatives and Democratic presidential contenders in this season. Except that these inmates are crazy like the proverbial fox; they know exactly what they are doing and their aim is to obstruct the very justice they accuse the Trump Administration of obstructing. In this case their target du jour is AG William Barr. They are determined to stop Barr from effectively investigating government officials – past and present – who appear to have attempted a coup in the form of the events leading to the Mueller Report. The rest of us need to stop them by all means legally available.
There are essentially four forms obstruction of justice can assume in law. One is stonewalling investigators where Bill of Rights issues are not at stake. Another is intimidating officials. Still another is concealing or destroying evidence. The fourth and relevant form is attempting to discredit – through slander and libel – officials conducting investigations or hearings. The Greek Chorus shrieking Bill Barr – currently investigating said chorus – has perjured himself is itself an effort to obstruct that must be exposed and stopped in its tracks.
The now published report details some ten instances of alleged Trump behavior that might constitute obstruction. Multiple authorities of the stature of progressive Alan Dershowitz call the accusations absurd.
The first example cited in Mueller is when Trump allegedly told fired FBI Director James Comey he wanted and expected loyalty from those he employs. Remember Comey had already told Trump he was not under investigation. How a request for loyalty when there is no investigation to be compromised is obstruction shatters the imagination. Just as mind boggling is the second allegation, that Trump asked Comey to cover up criminality in General Michael Flynn when he said, “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” The notes of investigators who interviewed Flynn gave him a clean bill of health; again, how does a statement of support constitute obstruction when there was nothing to obstruct?
A big bogey man is that third allegation. It is public record Donald Trump fired James Comey over what he called the botched investigation into the Hillary Clinton email scandal. Comey stated on national television Clinton violated The Espionage Act but he found “no intent” to do so; the Act never mentions intent. Comey admitted he leaked confidential information about the FBI investigation into possible Russian collusion in order to manipulate a special prosecutor into existence, a clear abuse of his power. Trump claimed the firing was related soley to the Clinton matter and some believe he was less than forthright about his motives. Yet motive only becomes an issue of obstruction when a criminal act has first been committed. Trump has authority to hire and fire FBI directors once a week if he so desires. His motive for a perfectly legal act is irrelevant to obstruction, even should it be shown he acted for other purposes. There must be an obstructionable act before there can be an obstructive motive.
The same must be said for allegedly asking National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, National Security Agency head Mike Rogers, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, and Comey to state publicly there was no evidence of collusion with Russia. They had already rendered such a judgement privately; Trump simply asked them to go public.
It gets more and more absurd, and especially if we imagine any truth to the remaining allegations. Sources in the report accuse POTUS of ordering his fired campaign director to order AG Jeff Sessions to limit the Mueller Investigation. Ordering a man Trump fired to carry messages when he could issues orders directly to his subordinate? Threatening to fire Sessions is obstruction when no firing ever occurred? Drafting – but never sending – a misleading letter about an alleged meeting with Russians in Trump Tower? Ordering his lawyer to fire Mueller – an order never executed – when he has only to pick up the phone himself?
The last two charges may be the most interesting – if true. Trump is accused of implying – implying – Michael Cohen’s dad was at legal risk if Cohen testified against Trump. We have only the word of convicted perjurer Cohen for this, but if the father is half as dishonest as the son he likely was in jeopardy and it would be a favor to tell him. Trump is also accused of asking Sessions to un-recuse himself and investigate Hillary Clinton. I can only say this would be entirely appropriate – given what Comey publicly disclosed in July 2016 – and it may well be the current Attorney General will do just that. The report can only say the evidence of these things was inconclusive; it omits the obvious conclusion they are ridiculous.
The inmates have indeed been running the asylum, but it appears new management is coming on board. My prayer is that now the truth and the whole truth will be exposed – not for purposes of retribution but to deter a repetition of this sordid coup attempt in any future and with any party in power. Karl Marx got one thing right. Power does corrupt and absolute power does corrupt absolutely, no matter who wields it. The other side of the coin is Jesus Christ got everything right, beginning with the idea that humble submission to God – no matter how right we imagine ourselves to be – is the beginning of real life now and forever. Whether Democrats, Republicans, or some other flavor, we do well to acknowledge this truth before moving on.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books or at firstname.lastname@example.org