Tags: Donald Trump | Jeff Sessions | Russia Probe | Trump Administration | obstruction of justice | presidents | investigation

Sessions Believed Presidents Can Obstruct Justice During Clinton Impeachment

Sessions Believed Presidents Can Obstruct Justice During Clinton Impeachment
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

By    |   Monday, 04 December 2017 08:51 PM

The assertion by President Donald Trump's personal attorney, John Dowd, that presidents cannot legally obstruct justicebrought swift retorts from Democrats and constitutional scholars, but they might have an ally in Trump's own attorney general, Jeff Sessions.

Sessions, it turns out, made the argument presidents can, indeed, obstruct justice during the impeachment trial of President Bill Clinton in 1999. Sessions was a Republican U.S. senator representing Alabama at the time.

Politico on Monday noted Sessions made an impassioned plea that Clinton had obstructed justice during the investigation of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"The facts are disturbing and compelling on the president's intent to obstruct justice," Sessions said, according to the congressional record of the proceedings.

"The chief law officer of the land, whose oath of office calls on him to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, crossed the line and failed to defend the law, and, in fact, attacked the law and the rights of a fellow citizen," Sessions continued. "Under our Constitution, equal justice requires that he forfeit his office."

Claims of obstruction began with a tweet from Trump's Twitter account over the weekend saying he fired former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn in February because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and to the FBI. Previously, the White House had said only that Flynn was fired for lying to Pence.

Dowd, Trump's lawyer, claimed credit for that tweet, telling Axios on Sunday the whole situation was "my mistake" after he drafted the tweet and passed it along to White House social media director Dan Scavino to send out.

Many critics refused to believe Trump was in the dark about the tweet, and some argued that even if he was, he still is responsible since it went out under his name.

And, they argued, saying he knew in February that Flynn lied to the FBI amounted to obstruction, especially considering former FBI Director James Comey's testimony that he felt Trump had asked him to call of the investigation of Flynn's possible ties to Russians during the election.

"The tweet did not admit obstruction," Dowd told Axios. "That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion."

He added the "President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case."

Sessions' opinion may matter less in the case than it otherwise would since he has recused himself and allowed his deputy to appoint Robert Meuller as special counsel over the Russian influence probe.

Still, he was joined in 1999 by more than 40 other current Republican members of Congress who voted for Clinton's impeachment or removal from office, Politico noted.

Included in that group: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr, R-N.C.

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The assertion by President Donald Trump's personal attorney, John Dowd, that presidents cannot legally obstruct justice brought swift retorts from Democrats and constitutional scholars, but they might have an ally in Trump's own attorney general, Jeff Sessions.
obstruction of justice, presidents, investigation, john dowd
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2017-51-04
Monday, 04 December 2017 08:51 PM
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