US: 500 ex-prosecutors say Trump should be charged with obstruction | News | DW | 07.05.2019
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US: 500 ex-prosecutors say Trump should be charged with obstruction

Donald Trump tried to fire Robert Mueller and intimidate witnesses, hundreds of US ex-prosecutors said in a letter. They added that Trump would have faced an obstruction charge if he were not the current president.

During the Russia probe, US President Donald Trump acted in a way that would result in "multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice," former US federal prosecutors said in a letter published on Monday. 

Over 500 ex-prosecutors had signed the letter posted by advocacy group Protect Democracy by early Tuesday, and the number was expected to keep growing. The signatories base their conclusions on the report issued by Special Counsel Robert Mueller that details, among other things, Trump's efforts to influence the probe into the relationship between his campaign and Russia.

"The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge," the former prosecutors say, adding that evidence of "corrupt intent" was "overwhelming."

Trump tried to "fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort," as well as limit the scope of his probe and prevent witnesses from coming forward, according to the ex-prosecutors.

Watch video 00:28

Barr: No 'corrupt intent to obstruct' investigation

Trump wanted false documents made

The Mueller probe found no evidence of collusion between Trump's campaign and Russia. Mueller was also authorized to investigate attempts of tampering with his probe, but — in his report — he did not state a conclusion as to whether Trump had criminally obstructed justice. Mueller also said the reason, at least in part, was an opinion from Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that says a sitting US president cannot be indicted.

Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein subsequently decided that Mueller's evidence was not enough for an obstruction charge. Barr also said the OLC opinion played no role in his conclusion.

Attorney General William Barr (Getty Images/A. Wong)

US Attorney General William Barr has refused to release the unredacted version of the Mueller report

In the Monday letter, however, ex-prosecutors say that any person not covered by the OLC decision would face multiple charges based on Mueller's findings.

"Despite being advised by then-White House Counsel Don McGahn that he could face legal jeopardy for doing so, Trump directed McGahn on multiple occasions to fire Mueller or to gin up false conflicts of interest as a pretext for getting rid of the Special Counsel," the letter says. "When these acts began to come into public view, Trump made 'repeated efforts to have McGahn deny the story'  —  going so far as to tell McGahn to write a letter 'for our files' falsely denying that Trump had directed Mueller's termination."

Read more: Democrats fire subpoena for full Mueller report

'Counter to logic'

Trump also "pressured then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his legally_mandated decision to recuse himself from the investigation. The President's stated reason was that he wanted an attorney general who would 'protect' him," they say.

Watch video 02:18

US officials release redacted Mueller report

Also, they claim Mueller's report show Trump tried to influence witnesses Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. "Some of this tampering and intimidation, including the dangling of pardons, was done in plain sight via tweets and public statements; other such behavior was done via private messages through private attorneys, such as Trump counsel Rudy Giuliani's message to Cohen's lawyer that Cohen should '[s]leep well tonight[], you have friends in high places.'"

"In our system, every accused person is presumed innocent and it is always the government's burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But, 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," the letter states.

dj/aw (AP, AFP)

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