Experts: Presidents Not Immune to Obstruction Charges

Tuesday, 05 December 2017, 08:03:09 AM. Despite what his lawyer has claimed, President Donald Trump is not immune to obstruction of justice charges, legal experts told The Washington Post.

President Donald Trump is not immune to obstruction of justice charges despite what his lawyer has claimed, legal experts told The Washington Post.

Some have speculated Trump's comments to former FBI Director James Comey about the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn could constitute obstruction of justice. The president's attorney John Dowd told Axios the U.S. president "cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer . . . and has every right to express his view of any case."

While this argument might prevent charges being brought against Trump on this particular matter, legal experts from George Washington University and Georgia State University told the Post it might be overstatement to say the president cannot commit that crime.

"The president's lawyer is overstating his case, but he has a point," constitutional law expert Daniel P. Franklin said. "The words of a president, not expressed under oath and not in the service of obstruction (for example, ordering subordinates to commit obstruction), are just words and not actions and, therefore, are not a crime."

He added: "To the point that the president can't engage in obstruction because he is the chief executive, that is engaging in sophistry."

George Washington Law School professor Jonathan Turley added Dowd makes a "perfectly reasonable argument," but, while Trump can fire an attorney general, "he can [also] commit a crime if he does so to block an investigation into alleged crimes."

Hofstra University's Meena Bose added the articles of impeachment brought against former Presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton both mentioned obstruction of justice.

North Carolina School of Law professor Michael Gerhardt went further, calling Dowd's argument "absurd," and nothing "the president is obliged to faithfully execute the law, and that includes in circumstances where he or his friends are involved. He must also comply like every citizen is obliged to follow the laws in everything else he does — ranging from filing his taxes properly to driving to avoiding sexual harassment in the workplace."

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