The Slatest

Hundreds of Former Federal Prosecutors Say Trump Committed Obstruction of Justice Felonies

Attorney General William Barr testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Attorney General William Barr testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 1 in Washington.
Win McNamee/Getty Images

More than 400 former federal prosecutors have signed a letter contending that President Donald Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice based on the findings of the Mueller report if he weren’t president.

The letter, published to Medium on Monday, is backed by a growing list of impressive names—413 at the time of this post’s publication. They include, as the Washington Post notes, Bill Weld, who is challenging Trump for the Republican nomination; Donald Ayer, who served as deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration; Paul Rosenzweig,* who served as senior counsel to Ken Starr; and a number of U.S. attorneys and former chiefs and directors of various departments and agencies. The signatories include career government employees who have worked for decades at the Department of Justice and high-profile political appointees who have served during both Republican and Democratic presidencies dating back to the Eisenhower administration.

“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” the former federal officials wrote.

The Mueller report did not conclude that Trump had committed criminal obstruction of justice, in part because of the DOJ policy against indicting sitting presidents, but Mueller did write that “if we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state.”

The report details both Trump’s efforts to fire Mueller and—after being told by White House counsel Don McGahn that he could not fire Mueller—Trump’s attempt to cover up those efforts. (Attorney General William Barr has said it would be difficult to prove the latter beyond a reasonable doubt.) The report also concluded that Trump had tried to use intermediaries outside the White House to pass along the message to have Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the Russia investigation, limit the scope of the Mueller investigation.

“The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming,” the prosecutors said in the letter.

Barr said he had determined that the Mueller report was “not sufficient” to establish any criminal wrongdoing by the president. But the federal prosecutors named in Monday’s letter acknowledged the potential defenses of Trump’s behavior and rejected Barr’s reasoning anyway. “To look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience,” they wrote.

“As former federal prosecutors, we recognize that prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk,” they concluded. “We believe strongly that, but for the [Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President], the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report.”