But constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley, who voted for President Obama, warned “impeachment” enthusiasts not to get ahead of themselves with President Trump. Why?
At this time, there’s no evidence Trump actually committed a crime.
“The criminal code demands more than what Comey reportedly describes in his memo,” Turley wrote in a May 17 opinion piece posted at the Hill. Turley explained:
For the first time, the Comey memo pushes the litany of controversies surrounding Trump into the scope of the United States criminal code.
However, if this is food for obstruction of justice, it is still an awfully thin soup. Some commentators seem to be alleging criminal conduct in office or calling for impeachment before Trump completed the words of his inaugural oath of office. Not surprising, within minutes of the New York Times report, the response was a chorus of breathless “gotcha” announcements. But this memo is neither the Pentagon Papers nor the Watergate tapes. Indeed, it raises as many questions for Comey as it does Trump in terms of the alleged underlying conduct.
A good place to start would be with the federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 1503. The criminal code demands more than what Comey reportedly describes in his memo. There are dozens of different variations of obstruction charges ranging from threatening witnesses to influencing jurors. None would fit this case. That leaves the omnibus provision on attempts to interfere with the “due administration of justice.”
However, that still leaves the need to show that the effort was to influence “corruptly” when Trump could say that he did little but express concern for a longtime associate. The term “corruptly” is actually defined differently under the various obstruction provisions, but it often involves a showing that someone acted “with the intent to secure an unlawful benefit for oneself or another.” Encouraging leniency or advocating for an associate is improper but not necessarily seeking an unlawful benefit for him.
While Turley said a request from Trump to the FBI director to end such an investigation would be “wildly inappropriate,” he cautioned: “[W]e need to move beyond the hyperventilated pronouncements of criminal conduct or impeachable offenses based on this memo. This conversation in the Oval Office is a valid matter of concern and worthy of further investigation. It is not proof of an impeachable offense any more than it is proof of a crime.”
Andrew C. McCarthy led the prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and others for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and plots to blow up other New York City landmarks. He told WND and Radio America Wednesday the Comey memo and alleged Trump statements about Flynn are a far cry from constituting obstruction of justice.
“I don’t think we’re close to being there yet because, even though I am sure that then-Director Comey must have found the conversation with President Trump to be awkward and inappropriate, I don’t think there’s anything corrupt about it,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said it’s hard to draw any sweeping conclusions from a few scraps of a conversation.
“The most important thing about obstruction of justice is context. We don’t really have context here. We have one statement that’s mined out of what must be a larger memo,” he said.
He said there needs to be concrete evidence of corruption to pursue obstruction of justice allegations.
“Corruption is the heart of obstruction of justice,” McCarthy explained. “The person has to act intentionally, knowing that what he’s doing is wrong, and intend to subvert the truth-seeking process.”