Your essay is very detailed and well-written, but it works too hard to push the case for impeachment. It is ultimately unconvincing.

The obstruction charges leveled against Nixon establish no precedent against Trump

  1. Firing executive branch officials is the President’s prerogative. The act of firing on its own cannot constitute obstruction. The obstruction of justice charges against Nixon did not include his Saturday Night Massacre firings. There was a general consensus then that impeachment could not be based on the exercise of explicitly granted Presidential powers. Nixon was guilty of tampering with evidence or conspiring to tamper with evidence — Trump didn’t tamper with anything.
  2. Nixon was guilty of conspiring to pay hush money to suborn perjury and to buy the silence of the Watergate burglars in a criminal proceeding. Trump did not ask anyone to pay hush money for the silence of anyone in a criminal proceeding.
  3. Nixon was obstructing investigation of an actual crime, the Watergate break in. In contrast, there was no predicate crime that Trump was covering up. Obstruction without a predicate crime is always a stretch and needs extraordinary evidence.
  4. Nixon was aware he was acting outside his powers to impede an investigation of an act, the Watergate Break-in, he believed was illegal. Dean’ s testimony and the tapes prove that. On the other hand, there is no evidence Trump believed any crime had been committed and no evidence he felt he was acting outside powers he felt he had.
  5. There is no obstruction in his wanting an investigation to end and even in discussing how to bring an investigation to an end. If there is no overt bad act, there is no legal obstruction. Legally, obstruction is much tighter in meaning than simple being something that impedes an investigation. For example, counseling someone to take the 5th amendment and refuse to testify is not legal obstruction — it is telling someone to avail themselves of one of their rights.

Also, your repeated citation of the prosecutorial excesses of Ken Starr as a favorable precedent counts against your argument. After the Starr debacle, both Democrats and Republicans agreed no independent prosecutor should be allowed to run roughshod over the Constitution the way he did. A new Special Prosecutor statute became law with bipartisan support. It restricts the actions of a Special Prosecutor. You want Mueller to act in partisan mode like Starr, but the statute is designed to prevent that. Further, though Clinton was impeached, his popularity soared and he never came close to being convicted by the Senate. People felt “high crimes and misdemeanors” did not include “obstruction of justice” if it consisted of lying about a blow job, even if that lying was under oath. Trump is not even arguably guilty of lying under oath.

Ultimately, Mueller had the opportunity to say flat out that he wanted to indict Trump for obstruction. He could have said he was prevented from making the indictments due to DOJ policy. He didn’t. He ambiguously straddled the fence but refused to come down with a decision. He did not believe he had enough to go for an indictment. He punted it the decision to Barr, as per the statute. Barr legally had the right to make the decision and he made it. You can try to stuff words into Mueller’s mouth or say he left a trail of cookie crumbs, but in the end he issued no indictments for obstruction.

Mathematician, Statistician, Businessman, and Academic. Student of history, poli sci , and the Bible.

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