The Corner

Politics & Policy

From Collusion to Obstruction

There’s still an obsession with Russia, but the discussion of the Russia investigation has become more and more about obstruction. The two matters are difficult to disentangle, though. If Trump didn’t collude with Russia — or doesn’t have some other criminal secret to hide — it’s hard to see what his corrupt intent would be in an obstruction case.

Jeffrey Toobin makes the case at The New Yorker that the revelation of the attempted firing of Robert Mueller gets us close to obstruction:

Mueller and his team surely have evidence on obstruction of justice that has not yet been made public. But even on the available evidence, Trump’s position looks perilous indeed. The portrait is of a President using every resource at his disposal to shut down an investigation — of Trump himself. And now it has become clear that Trump’s own White House counsel rebelled at the President’s rationale for his actions.

There are a couple of leaps here: 1) When Trump fired James Comey, he wasn’t under investigation by Comey. In fact, Trump may have fired him because he was so irritated that Comey wouldn’t say publicly that he wasn’t himself under investigation. 2) That McGahn (rightly) rejected Trump’s reasoning for firing him doesn’t mean that McGahn believes that Trump’s underlying motive was corrupt. In fact, it’s more likely that McGahn believes such an act would have been catastrophically stupid, in part because letting Mueller do his work will ultimately lead to Trump’s vindication on Russia collusion.

Usual caveat: It’s possible Mueller has damaging evidence of Russian collusion and subsequent obstruction that we’re not aware of. But, from the outside, this increasingly looks like an investigation about an investigation.

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