A response to the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board.
Justin Florence is the Legal Director of Protect Democracy, a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to strengthening and defending our democratic laws, norms, and institutions. He previously served in the Office of the White House Counsel as Special Assistant to the President and Associate Counsel to the President. Justin also worked for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse as Senior Counsel on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. Outside of his service in government, Justin has also worked in private practice, most recently at Ropes & Gray LLP, and previously at O'Melveny & Myers LLP. Justin also served as a Fellow at the Georgetown Center on National Security and the Law, as well as a Law Clerk to the Honorable Diana Gribbon Motz on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. Justin graduated from Yale Law School, where he was Executive Editor of The Yale Law Journal.
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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.
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
Last Friday, Feb. 9, Sen. Tim Kaine asked the Trump administration to turn over a legal memo prepared by administration lawyers in connection with the April 2017 missile strikes directed at Syrian regime forces. The existence of that memo came to light in response to a freedom of information lawsuit filed by our organization, Protect Democracy.
Recent reports indicate that President Trump has considered attempting to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller—or, given applicable legal constraints, to instruct Rod Rosenstein, the acting attorney general overseeing Mueller, to do so. It goes without saying that firing Mueller would cross a red line and should trigger dramatic consequences from Congress.
Last week’s New York Times story detailing Benjamin Wittes’s conversations with then-FBI Director James Comey and Wittes’s own Lawfare post describe in some detail Director Comey’s concerns about inappropriate White House contacts with the Department of Justice.