This week, President Trump unleashed a series of tweets bashing special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. One tweet is reigniting the question of whether the president’s actions are obstructing justice.
..This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 1, 2018
Trump’s tweet prompted a response from his critics, particularly Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
The President of the United States just called on his Attorney General to put an end to an investigation in which the President, his family and campaign may be implicated.
This is an attempt to obstruct justice hiding in plain sight. America must never accept it. https://t.co/F8b6a0IGOh
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) August 1, 2018
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders downplayed the president’s tweet on Wednesday, saying, “It’s not an order; it’s the president’s opinion.”
Is it obstruction by tweet? Prosecutors say obstruction cases aren’t clear-cut. Prosecutors have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a certain act got in the way of an investigation. Prosecutors also have to prove that the person who obstructed justice did it with corrupt “intent.”
The concept of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” wouldn’t apply if there are other credible reasons why Trump posted the tweet, such as to rally support among his political base.
But prosecutors say his tweet could help build an obstruction case based on an earlier act. This would include Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, who was at the time leading the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.