Just as obstruction of justice charges against President Donald Trump for firing ex-FBI Director James Comey started to fade, the president is once again facing allegations that could earn him criminal charges. But will Trump be impeached for them?
The president allegedly “personally dictated” a misleading statement about his son, Donald Trump Jr.’s, now-infamous June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer that claimed pair had “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children,” according to a Washington Post report published on Monday.
Trump Jr.’s own personal emails, which he released two days later, refuted that story. They showed he was eager to meet with the Russian lawyer who claimed to have damaging information about Trump’s opponent Hillary Clinton, and the lawyer said she was acting on behalf of the Russian government, who was supporting Trump’s candidacy.
“I love it,” Trump Jr. replied in the email thread.
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White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders denied the Washington Post report stating Trump “certainly didn’t dictate” his son’s statement. But if the Washington Post report is true, ethics experts agree the news could mean legal charges against Trump including obstruction of justice and witness tampering.
WASHINGTON, DC - White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders will deliver a briefing for reporters Tuesday at 2 p.m. Eastern. You can watch the briefing live on Patch. The briefing comes as Republicans continue to debate how to move forward on health care reform.
“A misleading statement, even a lie, told to the press or to the public is not itself a crime,” Richard Painter, the White House ethics chief under President George W. Bush told The Independent. “But he must have known that his son and others would be called to give evidence in the criminal proceedings. Once he drafts a public statement that he knows is false, he is boxing them in when they talk to [special prosecutor Robert] Mueller, testify before Congress and at trial, or at least he is attempting to do so. That is obstruction of justice, witness tampering.”
If the Post report proves true, coupled with the allegations of obstruction of justice in the Comey firing, it could point to series of intentionally misleading actions.
“Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth,” an anonymous source close to Trump told the Post.
How obstruction of justice could get Trump impeached
Whether these allegations amount to criminal offenses is up to the courts, but it’s Congress who decides if a president gets impeached.
There are three impeachable offenses: treason, bribery and the ever-broad “other high crimes and misdemeanors,” and there is precedent to say obstruction of justice satisfies those tenets.
“The Constitution allows impeachment for ‘high crimes and misdemeanors,’ a phrase understood to encompass more than felonies defined by Congress. Obstruction thus was alleged without mention of statutes in the articles of impeachment that the House approved against President [Bill] Clinton,” Diane Marie Amann, law professor at the University of Georgia told Vox.
Congress never did convict Clinton, and it is unlikely Trump will face impeachment proceedings since his own party, the Republicans, have control of both the House and Senate — to move forward with impeachment there would need to be majority approval by the House and a two-thirds approval by the Senate. House Democrats filed articles of impeachment last month citing Comey’s firing, but the bill has meager support so far.
But some say this latest misdeed serves to further prove dishonesty and a lack of integrity on part of President Trump that could someday lead to impeachment.
“It’s another brick that could someday be part of a wall that proves obstruction of justice,” Samuel Gross, a law professor at the University of Michigan, told Vox.
And it hasn’t gone unnoticed — Slate upped his “Impeach-O-Meter,” giving a 57.5 percent chance to impeach Trump and British pollsters Ladbrokes put the odds at 48 percent that Trump will be impeached before his first term is up.