Don't prosecute Trump. Impeach him.

Don't prosecute Trump. Impeach him.

If the president has impeded an investigation, it's the job of Congress to act

[Read the full article in The New York Times]

A wayward tweet on Saturday has set off renewed accusations that President Trump obstructed justice by impeding the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.

The known facts are too weak to support any federal prosecution, not to mention one as momentous as indicting a sitting president. But even if Mr. Trump did illegally conspire to improve relations with Russia, his critics are pursuing their quarry down the wrong path. Impeachment—not criminal prosecution—is the tool for a corrupt sitting president.

The tweet in question contained a seemingly explosive claim that sent critics of Mr. Trump into a frenzy: “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” If the president knew that Mr. Flynn had lied to Mike Pence and to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, then the president had knowingly obstructed justice when he asked the FBI director James Comey on February 14 to let “Flynn go” because he was a “good guy.” According to the president’s critics, Mr. Trump then escalated his obstruction by firing Mr. Comey because of the Russia inquiry.

No responsible federal prosecutor would dream of stepping into a trial court with such a weak case. This is a tweet, hardly an admission of guilt. And on Sunday, Mr. Trump’s personal attorney, John Dowd, made the case even weaker when he said that he had ghost-written the tweet.

Mr. Trump’s comments to Mr. Comey (if true—the only source for them is a memo by Mr. Comey) do not qualify as corruption, a threat, or coercion as required by federal obstruction law. A mother might make the same plea for her son, or a priest for a parishioner. Asking for leniency does not constitute obstruction, regardless of whether the crime being investigated is a violation of the Logan Act, which forbids private individuals from negotiating with foreign governments, or the False Statements Act. Mr. Trump most likely fired Mr. Comey not to thwart the investigation—Mr. Trump could have just ordered it ended, which he still has not done—but because Mr. Comey refused to affirm publicly that the president was not a target.

[Continue reading in The New York Times]