By J. D. Heyes, editor-in-chief
(National Sentinel) Presidential Obstruction: I awoke to the headline on Drudge this morning, “Mueller Warns: May Subpoena Trump,” followed by a second, “Obstruction Key Focus.”
The first article reports details from a meeting between President Donald J. Trump’s legal team in early March and special counsel Robert Mueller, in which the president’s attorneys insisted he had no obligation to sit down and answer questions posed by Mueller.
The second is an analytical piece by The Associated Press assessing the potential meaning of a series of leaked questions that Mueller ostensibly wants to ask the president during a sit-down, notably whether Trump “obstructed justice” when he fired FBI Director James Comey and whether Trump “colluded” with Russia to “steal the election” from Hillary.
Let’s unpack the second report first.
As to the charge of obstruction: Until this president, firing Executive Branch employees like FBI directors was a fully-recognized and unchallenged presidential authority. Such firings were not always universally approved of by various political factions, but no one questioned the president’s lawful authority to do so. Suddenly, because it’s Trump — and because it was one of Mueller’s best buddies and former colleagues, firing an Executive Branch employee is “obstruction of justice?”
As to the charge of collusion: There is no evidence for this — and there never will be. Mueller knows this because the allegation is based on a bogus “dossier” paid for by the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee. That document is as fictitious as this investigation; even the House Intelligence Committee, in a recent report, has fully cleared Trump and his campaign by stating as plainly as it can be stated: There is no evidence of collusion on the Trump side (though the chairman of the committee, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., says there is plenty of evidence to suggest Clinton campaign collusion, since the guy hired to write the dossier — Christopher Steele — reportedly got his ‘information’ from Russian operatives).
Which brings me back to Mueller and his quest to question the president.
During that early March meeting, the story linked above claims, Mueller responded to the Trump legal team’s claim that the president had no obligation to talk to Mueller with a threat: The special counsel may resort to issuing a subpoena requiring our sitting president to appear before the grand jury for questions under oath.
That drew the ire of Trump’s lead attorney at the time, John Dowd.
“This isn’t some game,” Dowd said, according to two people with knowledge of his comments. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”
Let me be as clear as I can be: Dowd is exactly right.
This pretend investigation, where there is but one objective — to undermine and potentially remove a duly-elected, sitting president — has reached the level of a national security threat.
President Trump is on the precipice of settling one of the thorniest, most dangerous situations in modern times — North Korea — and in the process not only ending a 65-year state of technical war but also a rising nuclear threat against U.S. allies in the region and the American people.
At the same time, Trump must deal with two near-peer revisionist powers — Russia and China — while attempting to contain a third regional revisionist power with nuclear ambitions in the Middle East — Iran.
And these are just the most visible national security issues and threats to our country. As president, you can bet that Trump is aware of far more threats than you and I because he has access, daily, to all the threat information being tracked by our intelligence community.
For this reason alone, Mueller has no legal right to subpoena Trump.
The problem is, Trump doesn’t seem to have any support in the places he needs it most. The Justice Department is led by a man Trump trusted to be his attorney general, but who has willingly taken himself out of the loop regarding anything relating to Russia. Jeff Sessions is perhaps the biggest error that Trump has made thus far in his appointments.
The deputy AG, Rod Rosenstein, is complicit in the scandal; he has signed off on Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court requests to spy on Trump and Trump campaign figures based on the “dossier” everyone knows is phony. Plus, Rosenstein just signed off on an FBI raid of Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.
There are a few Republican lawmakers in Congress who are attempting to cover Trump’s back with a threat to impeach Rosenstein, but they are too few and thus, the threat is empty.
So the question remains: If Mueller does subpoena the president, what should Trump do? What can he do?
He can invoke Executive Privilege, which is not in the Constitution, but which has been invoked by many presidents including George Washington. Trump could make a national security claim as his reason for invoking the privilege, and some of his aides have already declined to answer categories of questions in appearances before congressional committees in the premise that Trump may, at some point, invoke it formally.
That could lead to a legal challenge from Mueller, which — in this environment — is likely given the purpose of this “probe,” which is entirely political.
But then Mueller may be forced to reveal more than he cares to in court while arguing against Trump’s claim of executive privilege. And at that point, the president’s lawyers may even produce findings that prove this entire investigation is based on a lie.
That may be the president’s best legal option because he doesn’t have enough friends in high places to help him.
What is clear is that this investigation is dangerously distracting to our president at a time when we need him to be fully focused on the very real threats to our country.
Fake investigations should never outweigh real-world challenges.