President Donald Trump’s conduct as outlined in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report would have led to obstruction of justice charges if he were not a sitting president, hundreds of former federal prosecutors said in a statement Monday.
“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” said the statement, which was posted online.
The document quickly garnered more than 560 signatures by Monday evening, many of whom served for decades under both Republican and Democratic presidents.
“To look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience,” the statement continued.
The statement contradicts Attorney General William Barr’s assertion that Mueller’s report found insufficient evidence showing Trump obstructed justice.
“[T]he report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct,” Barr wrote in his summary of so-called key findings from the Mueller report in March. He admitted during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing last week that he reached that decision without reviewing the underlying evidence Mueller uncovered.
Mueller did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s 2016 campaign and Russia. Though his report outlined 10 instances of potential obstruction of justice by Trump, Mueller did not charge the president with a crime. Legal experts say Mueller did not do so because of the Justice Department’s opinion that a sitting president cannot be indicted.
Still, Trump has falsely claimed repeatedly that Mueller’s report totally exonerated him of any possible wrongdoing.
Dozens of career government employees and political appointees, including 20 former U.S. attorneys, who have served in both Democratic and Republican administrations signed the letter, reported The Washington Post.
Notable signatories include Bill Weld, a former U.S. attorney and Republican challenger to Trump in 2020; Donald Ayer, a former deputy attorney general who served during the George H.W. Bush administration; and Jeffrey Harris, former principal assistant to then-Associate Attorney General Rudolph W. Giuliani during the Reagan administration.
In their statement, the former prosecutors identify three acts described in the Mueller report that they believe satisfy all the elements of an obstruction charge: Trump’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about them, his efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct, and his efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators.
“As former federal prosecutors, we recognize that prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk,” the former prosecutors wrote.
They did not say what, if anything, they hoped to accomplish by publishing the letter. It comes as Democratic leadership considers whether to move forward with impeachment in the wake of the Mueller report.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has been reluctant to heed calls for impeachment from several high-profile Democrats, including 2020 presidential hopefuls Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California.
“While our views range from proceeding to investigate the findings of the Mueller report or proceeding directly to impeachment, we all firmly agree that we should proceed down a path of finding the truth,” she wrote in a letter to her colleagues last month. “We must show the American people we are proceeding free from passion or prejudice, strictly on the presentation of fact.”
This article has been updated with the most recent number of signatures.