By Ben Clements & Ron Fein
*So far. This post will be updated as needed as events unfold.
Obstruction of justice is grounds for impeachment. Under Article II of the Constitution, the president is subject to impeachment for “high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”
“[P]revent[ing], obstruct[ing], and imped[ing] the administration of justice” is an impeachable high crime or misdemeanor that can be effected by “interfering or endeavouring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States [and] the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” (Those quotations are from the first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon.)
Notably, the category of “high Crimes and Misdemeanors’ is broader than the specifics of federal criminal statutes. Consequently, the question of whether a president should be impeached for obstruction of justice is distinct from the question of whether there is sufficient evidence, admissible in federal court, to persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that President Trump violated a specific federal obstruction of justice statute. For this reason, for purposes of the obstruction of justice analysis, we don’t need to wait for the special counsel to complete a criminal investigation, and we don’t even need to know the full details of the FBI investigation(s) that he obstructed. In fact, for obstruction of justice purposes, it is irrelevant whether or not the underlying investigation ultimately leads to the special counsel prosecuting anyone. The question is simply whether the president endeavored to interfere with or impede that investigation.
Obstruction of justice can be established from the course of conduct below. Even if any one item standing alone is not conclusive, together they form a clear pattern. Furthermore, the House’s impeachment investigation will not require advanced investigative techniques, such as forensic science or signals intelligence. Much of the evidence comes from President Trump’s own mouth on camera or his Twitter feed. The House Judiciary Committee can investigate the rest through documents and examination of witnesses (including, if he desires, President Trump himself).