Mueller Is Examining Trump's Tweets in Wide-Ranging Obstruction Investigation
The New York Times is reporting that Robert Mueller is looking at a wide-ranging obstruction investigation, including a review of how Trump may have used his Twitter account to harm the investigation and mislead investigators. Included in this review are tweets concerning both former FBI Director James Comey and Attorney General Jefferson Sessions, both of whom have come in for frequent attacks from Trump.
By attacking Sessions and Comey, along with others like Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, former intelligence officials like James Clapper and John Brennan, and members of Mueller’s investigative team, Trump definitely attempted to demean the institutions involved. That includes the intelligence community, the Department of Justice, the FBI, and the special counsel’s office. And, especially if Trump knowingly used false information in making these attacks, they may have risen to the level of obstruction.
But both Comey and Sessions have special status as potential witnesses.
… Mr. Mueller is examining whether the actions add up to attempts to obstruct the investigation by both intimidating witnesses and pressuring senior law enforcement officials to tamp down the inquiry.
Just because the Twitter statements were made in the open, and not behind closed doors, doesn’t make them any less a subject of potential obstruction charges. In fact, by making these statements before his audience of followers, Trump was sure to place more attention on Comey and Sessions and subject them to both public pressure and media scrutiny. Trump’s tweets directly impacted the reputations of those he attacked, as well as helping to provide cover stories for Trump’s actions.
On their own, the tweets don’t make a case for obstruction. But they’re not on their own. They’re part of a “pattern of behavior.” Rudy Giuliani may have taken questions about obstruction off the table in his increasingly ludicrous descriptions of a potential interview between Donald Trump and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but that doesn’t mean Mueller is backing away from obstruction in his investigation.
Giuliani has waved away all concerns around Comey by claiming that “all the experts agree” that firing the FBI director was within Trump’s Article II powers. However, firing someone whose role includes investigating charges that may lead to impeachment is far from a given. And the case for obstruction against Trump runs far beyond just his behavior in regards to Comey. There is also the broader pressure Trump has placed against the investigation, and specific incidents such as the note Trump wrote from Air Force One, providing a false excuse for the Trump Tower meeting between Russian agents and his senior campaign staff.
Giuliani: If you’re going to obstruct justice, you do it quietly and secretly, not in public.
That’s not the test. Obstruction can be loud and public, threatening and private, or anywhere in between.
And in Trump’s case, it seems to have been everywhere.