Eric Posner discusses whether President Trump sought to obstruct justice

Martha Stewart to Donald Trump: Can there be obstruction of justice with no underlying crime?

In summarizing Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian election interference, Attorney General Bill Barr said there were two major questions the investigation examined: whether there was coordination or collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether President Donald Trump sought to obstruct justice. The report did not establish coordination or collusion.

That lack of proof on collusion is one of the reasons for not pursuing an obstruction-of-justice prosecution, Barr said: There was no underlying crime from Russia connections for Trump to cover up.

While Barr said this wasn’t the only factor that played into the decision about whether to prosecute, he explicitly cited it as one of them.

In the 24 hours after the Barr letter was released, we noticed a lot of cable TV debate about whether someone can or can’t be tried for obstructing justice if there is no underlying crime. Put another way, can you obstruct justice if there was theoretically nothing to obstruct? We decided to take a closer look.


Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, agreed that an obstruction prosecution could have been argued in this case.

"Suppose Trump knew that no crime had been committed but believed that the investigation would uncover politically or personally embarrassing information, or if he believed that the investigation would embarrass or implicate an ally, aide, or family member," Posner said. "Then interfering with the investigation is a crime. The reason is that the purpose of the investigation is to find the truth, and if people obstruct an investigation, then the investigation becomes more difficult, wasting government resources."

Read more at Politifact

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