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1000 and counting

richardson

Having served for seven years as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho and worked for a year for the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys, I am acquainted with over 200 former federal prosecutors. It is my observation that federal prosecutors, as a group, are exceptionally deliberate. For the most part, they are – by training and experience – not likely to go out on a limb in reaching prosecutorial decisions or making their views on other prosecutors’ decisions public.

Thus, it is remarkable that, at latest count, no less than 1,000 former federal prosecutors – Democrats, Republicans and political independents – have signed a crystal clear statement asserting: “Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”

The Statement then references “several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge: conduct that obstructed or attempted to obstruct the truth-finding process, as to which the evidence of corrupt intent and connection to pending proceedings is overwhelming.”

These include:

· The President’s efforts to fire Mueller and to falsify evidence about that effort;

· The President’s efforts to limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct; and

· The President’s efforts to prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.

The Statement emphasizes that these “are not matters of close professional judgment” and concludes with the reminder that “prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction — which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk.”

Make no mistake. This kind of overwhelming expression of disagreement by former federal prosecutors with an incumbent attorney general is not an everyday occurrence. Indeed, it is unprecedented.

I am proud to have signed the Statement.

Under Department of Justice guidance, when the evidence is sufficiently strong and the federal interest to be vindicated is substantial, prosecution should commence or be recommended even in instances when a prosecutor might doubt that, due to the popularity of an individual, a jury might be unlikely to convict.

While we can question the president’s popularity with the general public, conventional wisdom has it that the U.S. Senate, with its Republican majority, would be unlikely to produce the two-thirds vote needed to convict, should the House vote to impeach.

But there are times when the charging process itself furthers the interests of justice. In my view, this is such a time.

For those claiming that Democrats would pay a political price were they to proceed with impeachment, I would note that 2019 is not 1998 and Donald Trump is not Bill Clinton. Moreover, Mr. Trump’s alleged wrongdoing is infinitely more extensive and damaging to our republic and the rule of law than the matters for which Clinton was accused.

It is of course possible that Democrats would pay a political price if they proceed with impeachment, as it would allow Trump to play the victim, a role at which he excels. But I believe we will pay a greater price if we do not have the courage of our convictions, if – in this time of national peril – we pull our punches and fail to act. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said in a different but equally compelling context, “It is always the right time to do the right thing.”
 

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