Why obstruction and cover-up charges smack of desperation
A friend of mine who is — I’ll just say it — a devoted Trump-hater recently was talking about President Trump’s obstruction and asked what I thought.
After listening to his views, I told him there’s plenty about which to criticize the president, as is true of any political leader. But the obstruction charge doesn’t make logical sense. I used an analogy to explain why. When I finished, this friend still hated Trump — but surprised me by saying, “Nobody’s ever explained it that way. That makes sense. You should write about it.”
Obviously, I don’t kid myself that this analogy will “make sense” to everyone. But after listening to both sides and looking at the publicly available evidence, here’s how I see it:
If you were a person of some authority and murdered someone, and prosecutors set out to investigate, and if you spoke publicly against the investigation, proclaiming your innocence and calling the probe a “witch hunt,” and if you worked behind the scenes to use your influence to fire the lead investigator on the murder case — that would seem to be a pretty clear case of obstruction of justice. You, as a guilty man, would be trying to stop authorities from finding out the truth.
But imagine, on the other hand, that you are innocent — accused of a murder you didn’t commit. Not only that, imagine you knew there was no murder to begin with because you saw the victim walking around after the supposed murder. Then, imagine you found yourself the target of the murder investigation by a team that included people who had declared you to be their sworn enemy and expressed strong desires to take you out. Then, imagine this team that included biased investigators began leaking false information to the national media to implicate you in this crime that you knew you didn’t commit.
Imagine that this cloud of the murder you knew was never committed hangs over you, month after month, until it drags on for years. It’s distracting you from your ability and authority to do the job in the public’s interests. But every time you speak publicly to defend yourself and proclaim your innocence, the media and your political enemies declare you to be a liar and say you are obstructing the investigation.
It begins to look like the fix is in.
Under these circumstances, you wouldn’t be human if you didn’t possess a desire to stop a potentially conflicted investigation by your political enemies into a crime that was never committed — least of all by you. Since you are innocent, your attempts to stop an unfair investigation could be fairly seen as an attempt to see justice done, not to obstruct it.
If special counsel Robert Mueller is correct and there was no coordination of any kind between any American and Russia, then the latter analogy seems more applicable to President Trump than the former.
If Mueller is right, then Trump knew from the start that he didn’t conspire with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Nonetheless, he became the target of a supposedly independent investigation which, it turned out, included top team members who expressed personal disgust and hatred for him as well as a desire to take him out.
Extensive information about the probe, some of it false, was leaked to and reported by an unquestioning national press. Every time Trump spoke up for himself and — according to Mueller, in the end — rightly declared his innocence, his enemies accused him of being a liar and cited nonexistent, secret evidence.
This cloud of supposed collusion, a crime that never happened, hung over Trump month after month until it dragged on for years. For someone who’s innocent, it would obviously begin to look like the fix was in.
Trump’s alleged conversations about trying to switch out Mueller, as documented in interviews with the special counsel, could fairly be interpreted as attempts to seek justice, not to obstruct it.
The story would be entirely different, of course, if Trump had turned out to be Putin’s agent — and for two years, I and many others fully suspected that could be the outcome of the Mueller probe, based on all the leaks and reporting. But it wasn’t the case.
Those who think Trump is unfit for office, or who otherwise oppose him, might carry more weight if they publicly acknowledge that they chased their tails for two years and, when they finally snagged it, realized they hadn’t captured the enemy. Then, they could more credibly move forward to another focus, such as targeting the Trump policies they find objectionable.
In the end, Trump wasn’t the liar on this major point; instead, his critics were the ones who were sorely mistaken. They accused the president of the worst sort of treachery but, according to Mueller, Trump was telling the truth all along when he said there was no collusion with Russia.
I’m no political expert but, to me as an Average Joe, the continued focus on supposed obstruction of a crime that wasn’t committed simply smacks of desperation.
Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy Award-winning investigative journalist, author of The New York Times best-sellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program, “Full Measure.”
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