Hundreds of former federal prosecutors have attached their names to a statement saying they believe President Trump would have been indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe for obstruction of justice if he weren't president.
The names were organized and posted online Monday by an organization called “Protect Democracy,” which identifies itself as “a nonpartisan nonprofit with an urgent mission: to prevent American democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government.” The statement argued the Justice Department’s policy of not indicting sitting presidents is the reason Trump avoided prosecution.
“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 read.
Some Republicans have pushed back against the anti-Trump argument, saying the president could not have obstructed justice since Mueller found no underlying crime by Trump associates of coordinating with the Russians in the 2016 election.
And during a hearing on Capitol Hill last week, Attorney General Bill Barr testified that Mueller "reiterated several times in a group meeting that he was not saying that but for the [Office of Legal Counsel] opinion he would have found obstruction." Mueller did not reach a conclusion on the obstruction question. Barr, for his part, determined there wasn't enough evidence to pursue an obstruction case.
Still, the ex-prosecutors in Monday’s statement argue Trump tried to obstruct Mueller’s probe through his attempts to fire Mueller -- something the report notes he pressured White House Counsel Don McGahn to pursue -- though McGahn never carried out the alleged order.
“The Mueller report describes 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,” the statement reads.
Trump and his allies have pushed back against this argument as well, saying Trump cooperated with the probe by turning over documents and witnesses, and Mueller was never removed.
As of Monday afternoon, the statement had 379 signatories. It said it planned to add the names of others who wish to be added.
Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice, instead saying, “The evidence we obtained about the President’s actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred. Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
In a letter obtained by Fox News last week, White House lawyer Emmet Flood lashed out at Mueller’s decision not to reach a determination on the obstruction question -- while still going into great detail about the probe's findings. Flood noted prosecutors “simply are not in the business of establishing innocence” and described these as "political statements."