The potential charges against Donald Trump — should either the Department of Justice or the Southern District of New York elect to indict a sitting President — are of course myriad. Unfortunately, some of those charges are harder to prove than others. Almost like attempting to convict someone of attempted murder, there are just too many things that prosecutors will have to prove intent behind. Is he guilty of treason? Probably, but we’d have to prove he meant to be.
That’s why the charges that hinge only on sufficient circumstantial evidence will end up being so important when it comes time to hold Trump accountable for his crimes. Direct evidence, in an investigation like this, would have to look like perhaps a phone call between Trump and Putin that was secretly recorded and unearthed, in which they agreed to trade assistance in the 2016 election for a lifting of sanctions that would be mutually beneficial to both men.
We all know if that existed, Trump would already be in prison.
So what do the charges that might stick look like? In a word, obstruction. We watched it happen first with the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. In that case, we actually don’t need to rely on circumstantial evidence — Trump admitted on live television that Comey was fired specifically to prevent him from going forward with the investigation (into Michael Flynn) that he was pursuing at the time.
But that’s not nearly the extent of it, and on Wednesday, white collar criminal defense lawyer Caroline Polisi sat down with CNN’s Poppy Harlow to discuss other examples of Trump obstructing justice, and whether or not he even needed to be successful in his efforts in order to be guilty of a crime.
Harlow asked Polisi whether the specific act of asking his acting Attorney General to put a favorable judge in charge of the case in the Southern District would constitute obstruction — which of course it would — but more importantly, Polisi said, it would be part of a pattern of behavior:
It would definitely be part of a larger pattern or practice, a mosaic theory of the case. But I think it’s interesting to note that we now have three investigations that it’s alleged that the president may have obstructed.”
She went on to tell the hosts that not only does Trump not need to succeed in order to be guilty, but that this is essentially the defense they’ve used the entire time: Even if we did this, we got nothing out of it.
Unfortunately for Trump, that will not save him.
Watch the exchange here:
Featured image via screen capture