A response to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.
Ben Berwick is Counsel at Protect Democracy. He previously served for six and a half years in the U.S. Department of Justice, as a Trial Attorney with the Civil Division, Federal Programs Branch and Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division. Ben also served as a Law Clerk to the Honorable Mark R. Kravitz on the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut. He graduated from Yale Law School.
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Now that Congress has launched an impeachment investigation into President Trump’s effort to use the Ukrainian government to target a political rival, much ink has been spilled on the question of whether Trump’s actions amount to “high crimes and misdemeanors” for which he may be impeached. In analyzing the president’s conduct, some commentators have pointed to one of the two specific grounds for impeachment enumerated in the Constitution: bribery.
The extent to which federal obstruction of justice statutes apply to the president, especially when concerning actions facially within the office’s powers under Article II, has been hotly contested at least since President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
The White House’s threat Monday to revoke the security clearances of former intelligence community officials who have criticized the president over his response to Russian interference in the 2016 election (and Tuesday’s apparent escalation) is the latest move in the Trump administration’s ongoing campaign to punish those who voice disagreement with the president.
Late last year, in an interview with The New York Times, President Trump declared that he has the “absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department.” In a similar vein, the president’s personal lawyer John Dowd has said that a “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to ex