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‘Trump would have been charged were he not President’

Hundreds of former federal prosecutors (439 on Monday evening) have signed a statement countering Attorney-General William Barr’s testimony to the U.S. Senate last week that there was not sufficient evidence to say President Donald Trump had obstructed justice with regard to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential elections.

The statement by former prosecutors — Democrats and Republicans — says each of the signatories believes that without his Presidential office protecting him Mr. Trump would have faced “multiple felony charges for the obstruction of justice.” It is Department of Justice practice not to indict a sitting President.

Obstruction charge

“The Mueller report describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming,” the statement says.

While the statement does not ask for or recommend a particular course of action, it stresses that for the President being the President, he would have been prosecuted.

The statement goes on to outline and then describe the incriminating acts. First, an attempt to fire Mr. Mueller and alter the evidence around those attempts. It describes Mr. Trump trying to get his personal counsel Don McGahn to fire Mr. Mueller and write a memo covering it up.

Second, the statement describes Mr. Trump’s attempts to get then Attorney-General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself from the probe, so he could go back to overseeing it and protecting the President, including by limiting the probe’s scope.

Third, it describes Mr. Trump’s attempts at intimidation and “the dangling of pardons” in the cases of his fixer, Michael Cohen, and his campaign manager, Paul Manafort.

“We emphasise that these are not matters of close professional judgment. Of course, there are potential defences or arguments that could be raised in response to an indictment of the nature we describe here. 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,” the prosecutors say.

Critical case

“As former federal prosecutors, we recognise 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 statement says.

The statement not only counters Mr. Barr’s position but also comes days after he refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee for a hearing, on the grounds that he did not agree to the format House Democrats, who control the Committee, had requested.

The House Judiciary Committee is expected to vote to recommend to the House that Mr. Barr be held in contempt of Congress because the Department of Justice, which Mr. Barr heads, missed a subpoena-mandated deadline for handing in an non-redacted version of the Mueller report and underlying evidence.

Source: thehindu.com

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