• Show Notes

By Asha Rangappa

Dear Reader, 

The New Year is around the corner, and with it, the expiration of the 5-year statute of limitations for potential obstruction of justice charges against former President Trump. If you are racking your brain trying to remember what I’m referring to, that’s the crime Trump committed at the beginning of his presidency, before Impeachments I and II and the near-collapse of American democracy. With everything that has happened since, obstruction of justice seems like an old-fashioned crime, quaint, even – the kind of thing presidents used to do before they tried things like overthrowing the government. But even though Trump’s attempts to obstruct are in the rear-view mirror and we have bigger fish to fry in 2022, it’s worth revisiting his crime and considering whether it would still be worth it to hold him to account. 

A quick refresher: A few months into his presidency, Trump fired then-FBI director James Comey, who was at the time overseeing an investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election, and the country’s potential coordination with members of the Trump campaign. Comey’s firing came a few months after Trump tried to exact a “loyalty oath” from Comey and pressure him to back down from investigating his former national security advisor, Mike Flynn, who had lied about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. Trump’s initial rationale for firing Comey was the FBI director’s mishandling of the Hillary Clinton investigation. But the very next day, Trump appeared on national television, telling NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview that he fired Comey because of “that Russia thing.” DOJ then appointed former FBI director Robert S. Mueller III as a special counsel to investigate, inter alia, whether Trump tried to obstruct justice. Almost two years later, Mueller produced a report outlining ten potential counts of obstruction of justice, including an analysis of whether each count met the required elements of the crime. Citing DOJ’s policy against indicting a sitting president, Mueller would not opine on whether Trump should be indicted, adding only the unhelpful observation that “if [he] had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, [he] would have said so.” Mueller noted that Congress could nevertheless choose to impeach Trump based on the evidence he collected, or Trump could be prosecuted after he left office. Congress, for its part, chose not to initiate impeachment proceedings against Trump based on Mueller’s report. So, here we are, four and a half years later, with Mueller’s evidence just hanging out in the breeze.