Obstruction of justice charges are reportedly central to the special counsel’s Russia investigation.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani made an eyebrow-raising statement Friday, when he told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo that the president of the United States can be found guilty of obstructing justice.
Asked explicitly whether any president can obstruct justice, Giuliani replied: “He can.”
The statement reverses a claim made by John Dowd, a now-former lawyer for President Donald Trump, who told Axios in December that the president cannot obstruct justice.
“[H]e is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd told the outlet at the time.
Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team about one month after Dowd announced his resignation in late March.
Legal experts have debated the merits of Dowd’s argument. Many disagree with it ― including Giuliani, at least for the moment.
The debate is increasingly relevant as Trump’s team seems to be taking an increasingly confrontational approach to special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe that may include positing that the president simply cannot be charged with any of the crimes being investigated.
Mueller is reportedly zeroing in on a few key issues, including possible obstruction.
Mueller’s appointment was triggered by Trump’s decision to fire FBI Director James Comey on May 9, 2017, Giuliani told Cuomo on Friday. The former mayor also said, “The president has complete discretion to fire anybody he wants.”
But he stressed that there was “zero evidence” to justify the investigation in the first place.
In an interview on May 11, 2017, Trump conceded he had considered the “Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey, prompting questions over whether obstruction charges could apply.