A criminal attempt by the president to obstruct justice

Matthew Miller and Mimi Rocah explain why Trump’s deployment of Whitaker is his worst breach of the wall between president and Justice Department yet.

The SDNY’s case has already netted one guilty plea for a felony crime of violating campaign finance laws. In his guilty plea and sentencing allocution, Mr. Cohen stated that he worked “in coordination with and at the direction of Individual-1,” who is widely understood to be the president. In addition, it is clear from the charging documents against Mr. Cohen that the Trump Organization, which was owned and controlled by Mr. Trump and his children at the time of the conduct, is likely implicated in this criminal scheme as well.

Taken together, these facts make clear that President Trump, the Trump Organization, and at least one current executive (likely one of Mr. Trump’s sons, who together manage his company today) are subjects and possibly targets of the Southern District’s investigation. In other words, depending on the course of that probe, the president, his children, and his company may all still be charged for the same crime as Cohen, as well as other possible violations of law.

In pressuring Whitaker, who as acting attorney general oversees the investigation, the president was unquestionably trying to coerce him into blocking prosecutors in New York from either looking at or implicating him or his family members in criminal conduct.

In our view, that action clearly constituted a criminal attempt by the president to obstruct justice, one that is even more clear-cut than the president’s prior attempts to thwart the federal investigation into Russia’s 2016 election interference.

His attempts to muscle Comey and then his firing of Comey can, just barely, be explained as within the law, but the muscling of Whitaker cannot.

His intervention in this case can only be understood as an attempt to protect himself, his family, or his business from criminal liability.

Or all three.

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