Hundreds of former federal prosecutors have signed a letter asserting President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE would have been charged with obstruction of justice if he didn't occupy the Oval Office.
In Monday's letter, former Department of Justice (DOJ) officials said the evidence of obstruction as laid out in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE’s report was enough to bring forward an obstruction charge.
Mueller declined to say in his 448-page report whether Trump should be charged with obstruction of justice. Attorney General William BarrBill BarrClinton lawyer's indictment reveals 'bag of tricks' Attorney indicted on charge of lying to FBI as part of Durham investigation Milley moved to limit Trump military strike abilities after Jan. 6, Woodward book claims: report MORE has said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinWashington still needs more transparency House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week MORE determined there was insufficient evidence to bring forward such a charge.
But the ex-prosecutors say they don’t believe there was a lack of evidence, and they point to Mueller’s findings that Trump ordered then-White House counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel and later draft documents asserting that Trump never made that request.
They cited other acts outlined in Mueller’s report, like Trump’s efforts to limit the scope of the special counsel’s investigation, as being substantial enough to support an obstruction charge.
The former DOJ employees said it "runs counter to logic and our experience" to examine the evidence and say that a prosecutor wouldn’t be able to get a conviction for obstruction of justice.
They argued that guidance issued by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that states a sitting president cannot be indicted was the deciding factor in Mueller's decision not to bring forward an obstruction charge.
“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,” the letter reads. “We believe strongly that, but for the OLC memo, the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report.”
The letter, first reported by The Washington Post, had almost 400 signatures as of Monday afternoon. It was organized by the group Protect Democracy.
Among the letter's notable signatories are former Massachusetts Gov. William WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldThe Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Ralph Gants, chief justice of Massachusetts supreme court, dies at 65 The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden visits Kenosha | Trump's double-voting suggestion draws fire | Facebook clamps down on election ads MORE (R), who is challenging Trump for the GOP nomination in 2020, and Paul Rosenzweig, who was senior counsel to former independent counsel Ken Starr.
Democrats have criticized Barr over his decision to not charge Trump with obstruction of justice, accusing him of acting to protect the president.
Barr defended his actions during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week, saying he and Rosenstein both agreed there was not enough evidence to sustain an obstruction charge.
The attorney general added that he was surprised Mueller had declined to make the decision on obstruction. Barr also revealed that he did not review the underlying evidence of Mueller’s report before deciding against the obstruction charge.