He’s entitled to that

Along with the hush money part there’s the obstruction of justice part.

Giuliani conceded in an offhand way that Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey because Comey failed to do Trump’s bidding and publicly declare that Trump was not under investigation. Here’s what Giuliani said:

“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Giuliani said. “He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that, and he couldn’t get that. So he fired him, and he said, ‘I’m free of this guy.’”

In saying this, Giuliani appears to have thought that he was exonerating Trump. Giuliani was saying Trump didn’t fire Comey to obstruct the investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russian sabotage of our election, but rather because Comey didn’t publicly clear him, which Giuliani believes Trump was “entitled to.”

I stared in astonishment at that clip last night, because it’s so ridiculous. Giuliani was a prosecutor once upon a time, and here he is announcing that powerful people are “entitled” to order investigators to clear them during an investigation. What entitlement is that? Who has ever heard of such an entitlement before? Trump’s ordering Comey to publicly clear him is obstructing the investigation. Hillary Clinton did not “get that” until Comey and the FBI had closed the investigation.

“It seems that Giuliani is trying to suggest that Trump did not obstruct justice when he fired Comey,” Barbara McQuade, a former prosecutor and current law professor at the University of Michigan, told me. “But in fact he may just be building the case against him. Even demanding that Comey make a public statement that Trump is not under investigation would itself potentially be obstruction of justice.” McQuade added that insisting on such a public statement constitutes “interfering in the investigation.”

It seems to me blindingly obvious that it does; how could it not?

We also know that Mueller is looking at all of this conduct. To establish obstruction, Mueller needs to show that in trying to hamstring or derail the probe, Trump acted with “corrupt intent,” say, to protect himself and his top officials from scrutiny. The leaked questions from Mueller show that he wants to ask Trump about that very same March 30 call with Comey in which he seems to have demanded that Comey publicly exonerate him. Mueller wants to probe Trump’s state of mind about all of this, including whether Comey’s public confirmation of the investigation — which angered Trump — helped precipitate Comey’s firing.

Giuliani has now publicly confirmed that all that did indeed figure into Trump’s rationale. And Mueller’s team may take an interest in this, McQuade told me: “This will cause them to review what they’ve done already and will inform their questions going forward.”

To be clear, it still remains very unlikely that Mueller will try to indict Trump for obstruction of justice. But Mueller is expected to produce a report on the obstruction question, and his findings on it may be made public in some form. Whether or not Trump can be held criminally liable for obstruction, Mueller may end up documenting a pattern of very serious misconduct, which could shed new light on just how far Trump went to shield himself and his cronies from accountability, something that could have serious implications for our politics and for our efforts to restore the integrity of the rule of law amid Trump’s nonstop degradation of it.

Maybe that’s our future – clear public knowledge that Trump obstructed justice to serve his own interests, and we remain stuck with him.

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