Donald Trump’s personal lawyer has suggested the US President cannot be guilty of obstruction of justice in light of recent tweets about former Trump official Michael Flynn, who has admitted lying to the FBI about his contacts with the former Russian ambassador to the US.
Mr Trump had tweeted over the weekend that he had to fire his National Security Adviser Mr Flynn back in February because he had “lied to the Vice President and the FBI”. Many have argued that the tweet has strengthened a potential obstruction of justice case for special counsel Robert Mueller.
However, John Dowd said: The “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the US Constitution] and has every right to express his view of any case”. Mr Dowd – who was speaking to Axios – had already taken responsibility for drafting the tweet.
Mr Flynn was known to have been interviewed by the FBI on 24 January, more than two weeks before he left administration on 13 February, after it was publicly revealed he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his contacts with ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates, had warned the White House Counsel on 26 January about Mr Flynn’s actions. Meanwhile, former FBI Director James Comey testified to Congress that Mr Trump had allegedly held a meeting with him just one day after Mr Flynn’s resignation and asked Mr Comey to “see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go” and ending the investigation against him.
Critics have suggested this could amount to an obstruction of justice, if Mr Trump knew about Mr Flynn’s lie. The White House has consistently denied that Mr Trump told Mr Comey to drop the investigation.
The retired three-star Army Lieutenant General, Mr Flynn pleaded guilty on 1 December to making false statements to the FBI as part of Mr Mueller’s in the investigation into alleged collusion between US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russian officials.
Mr Flynn had lied about his phone conversation with Mr Kislyak on 29 December 2016 about US sanctions against Russia.
He also admitted to another lie in relation to a 22 December conversation with Mr Kislyak about a UN vote regarding Israel.
Mr Dowd told Axios the President’s tweet “did not admit obstruction. That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion.”
History is also against Mr Dowd’s assertion given that former President Richard Nixon’s articles of impeachment included that he obstructed justice during the Watergate scandal by attempting to cover it up.
Former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, whom Mr Trump initially said he would allow to stay in the job but ultimately sacked, told NPR that bringing a charge likes this against a sitting President “is a very high bar, it’s a very high threshold, it’s a difficult thing, it’s never been done before.”
“But the mere fact that the president is the president doesn’t immunize him from an accusation of obstruction,” said Mr Bharara.
The Congressional and FBI investigations into alleged collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia continue. Thus far, former campaign manager Paul Manafort and deputy Rick Gates have been indicted, but on non-campaign related financial charges that they have both denied. Campaign aide George Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty to a charge of lying to the FBI about his contact with Russia-linked individuals.