Legal experts weigh where the DOJ stands on Trump's obstruction probe

Legal experts weigh where the DOJ stands on Trump's obstruction probe
President Donald J. Trump, joined by First Lady Melania Trump, participates in NORAD Santa Tracker phone calls Monday, December 24, 2018, in the State Dining Room of the White House—a Christmas Eve tradition for over 60 years to keep track of Santa’s travels around the world. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Across multiple states, former President Donald Trump is at the center of prosecutorial investigations as a result of his questionable personal and professional dealings.

From Trump's relentless efforts to overturn the presidential election to the endless questions regarding the Trump Organization's finances, there are a number of investigations in progress, and the former president could finally face consequences for possible wrongdoings.

But in the midst of all the latest developments, there is one law enforcement agency that has been widely silent on Trump: the U.S. Department of Justice.

While it's no secret that Trump has repeatedly been accused of obstruction, Lawfare's Quinta Jurecic and Benjamin White have assessed the situation and explained the possible scenarios that might contribute to the DOJ's stance and its silence. The writers began by pointing to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and how he may view the situation based on former U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr's directive.

"The first possible explanation is that Garland considers the matter closed as a result of Barr’s having closed it. There is a long tradition of administrations not using the Justice Department to investigate their predecessors," they wrote, adding, "and whatever Garland might regard as the merits of Barr’s action, he might have simply chosen to respect that the department formally closed the obstruction matters."

They added, "Second, perhaps the Justice Department has opted to review Barr’s judgment but agrees with him on any of a number of legal positions that would make a prosecution of the former president nearly impossible."

With all of the publicity surrounding cases involving Trump, Jurecic and White believe the DOJ may have quietly revisited, and closed, the matter . "A third possibility is that the Justice Department quietly reopened the matter, at least for paper review—that is, not for investigation but to review the conclusions based on the collected evidence—and agreed with Barr’s judgments on the facts," they wrote.

Lastly, they pondered the circumstances surrounding statutes of limitations. "Then there is a fourth scenario: that the Justice Department quietly began reviewing Barr’s judgment and is letting certain statutes of limitations lapse because it considers the later fact patterns more plausible criminal cases than the earlier ones,"

Although the DOJ's stance remains a mystery, the investigations in Atlanta and Manhattan have progressed substantially. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, New York Attorney General Letitia James (D), and Manhattan's new district attorney Alvin Bragg have all recently made headlines for their investigative efforts to hold Trump accountable for his alleged actions.

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