Obstruction But No Collusion? Sure, It’s Possible.

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Here’s a quick note about the Mueller report. This bit is getting a lot of play:

According to notes written by [Jody] Hunt, when Sessions told the President that a Special Counsel had been appointed, the President slumped back in his chair and said, “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.” The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, “How could you let this happen, Jeff?”…Sessions recalled that the President said to him, “you were supposed to protect me,” or words to that effect.

Why would Trump say this if, in fact, he wasn’t guilty of collusion with the Russians and had nothing to fear? I think that’s pretty simple. My guess all along has been that although others in the campaign may have colluded with the Russians,¹ Trump himself didn’t. This is mostly because he’s shrewd enough to know what lines he can’t cross, but also because his staff tried to protect him from this stuff.

However, Trump knew there were plenty of other things to worry about. He was probably worried about the hush money payments to Stormy Daniels. He was probably worried about his tax returns. He was probably worried about various corporate shenanigans he had been involved in over the years. He may have been worried about his past association with mob figures.

In other words, when Trump says that obstruction of justice is impossible because there was no underlying crime, he’s wrong on two counts. First, Mueller made it clear that, in fact, you can obstruct justice even if there’s no underlying crime. Second, Mueller found only that Trump wasn’t guilty of colluding with the Russians. He didn’t investigate anything else, and therefore drew no conclusions about other possible crimes Trump may have been guilty of.

Most likely, there were underlying crimes that Trump was worried about, and that’s why he tried to obstruct the investigation. He knew that Whitewater, for example, had morphed from an investigation of a small-time real-estate deal into a carefully crafted perjury trap involving illicit sex with a White House employee. If that could happen, surely an investigation of collusion with Russia could morph into questions about hush money payments to a porn star. In the end, it turned out that Robert Mueller was far more honest and fairminded than Ken Starr ever was, and no such thing happened. Trump, however, who assumes that everyone is as corrupt as he is, never realized that.

¹Or they wanted to, anyway. But apparently they were too incompetent to pull off anything that was clearly illegal.


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