The Bulletin

Obstruction focus in Trump probe was ‘misbegotten from the beginning’ UVA professor says

By: - July 23, 2019 11:57 pm

A redacted version of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report was released in March. Since then, Washington has been consumed with debate over his decision neither to charge nor exonerate President Donald Trump. Mueller is scheduled to testify before Congress today. Mueller is pictured here when he was director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — Photo taken May 16, 2013 (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

A UVA law professor and constitutional law expert says the focus on whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice by seeking to derail the investigation into potential collusion with Russia during the election was “misbegotten from the beginning.”

“Firing James Comey was not an act that should have spawned an investigation about whether the president violated the federal obstruction of justice statutes,” said professor Saikrishna Prakash, in an interview published on the law school website the day before Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who led the probe into the Trump administration, is due to testify before Congress. (Mueller, incidentally, is himself a UVA law grad.)

Prakash, whose research focuses on the separation of powers, testified last month before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee about presidential power and the Mueller report, arguing that the obstruction statutes do not apply to the president’s official acts.

“Nothing I said in my testimony should be construed as implying that all of the president’s actions were appropriate,” Prakash said.  “Further, the House can impeach on the grounds that the president obstructed an investigation (or sought to) in a colloquial sense that goes beyond our federal laws.”

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Robert Zullo
Robert Zullo

Robert spent 13 years as a reporter and editor at weekly and daily newspapers before becoming editor of the Virginia Mercury in 2018. He was a staff writer and managing editor at Worrall Community Newspapers in Union, N.J., before spending five years in south Louisiana covering hurricanes, oil spills and Good Friday crawfish boils as a reporter and city editor for the The Courier and the Daily Comet newspapers in Houma and Thibodaux. He covered Richmond city hall for the Richmond Times-Dispatch from 2012 to 2013 and worked as a general assignment and city hall reporter for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from 2013 to 2016. He returned to Richmond in 2016 to cover energy, environment and transportation for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He grew up in Miami, Fla., and central New Jersey. A former waiter, armored car guard and appliance deliveryman, he is a graduate of the College of William and Mary. Contact him at [email protected]