CONFIRMED: Special Counsel Mueller Is Actually Investigating Donald Trump

Whether or not Trump obstructed justice in his interactions with James Comey has been the subject of hot debate ever since Comey was fired from his position as FBI director on May 9. Now, senior intelligence officials familiar with Special Counsel Mueller’s investigation have confirmed that he’s looking into whether or not Trump actually did obstruct justice.

To conservatives who believe that obstruction of justice requires specific intent and a specific act, the whole idea that Trump obstructed justice simply by doing what he’s done is preposterous. Nevertheless, obstruction of justice occurs when someone aware of a proceeding tries to interfere with it:

[O]bstructions of justice aimed at judicial officers, grand and petit jurors, and witnesses. The law makes it a crime to threaten, intimidate, or retaliate against these participants in a criminal or civil proceeding. In addition, [it is] illegal to attempt the bribery of an official to alter the outcome of a judicial proceeding.

Besides these specific prohibitions, the law contains the Omnibus Clause, which states that a person who “corruptly or by threats of force, or by threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice” is guilty of the crime of obstruction of justice. This clause offers broad protection to the ‘due administration of justice.’ Federal courts have read this clause expansively to proscribe any conduct that interferes with the judicial process.”

The way that Trump communicated with Comey about the investigation into Michael Flynn and Russia, and then again in the way he so abruptly fired Comey and virtually admitted that he did so because of the Russia probe, could fall under this definition. All that’s really needed is for the investigation to prove “that there was a pending federal judicial proceeding, the defendant knew of the proceeding, and the defendant had corrupt intent to interfere with or attempted to interfere with the proceeding.”

Prior to Comey’s firing, the FBI had convened a grand jury in the Flynn investigation, which issued subpoenas for Michael Flynn’s business records around the same time that Comey was fired. As CNN put it, the grand jury represented the first major escalation in the broader Russian probe.

Mueller’s office plans to interview various intelligence officials soon, which suggests that Mueller’s views on the matter are more in line with the idea that he was actively trying to impede Comey’s work, rather than just a disagreement between Comey and Trump about what was said.

A spokesman for Trump’s lawyer, of course, expressed outrage that this has made the news:

The FBI leak of information regarding the president is outrageous, inexcusable and illegal.”

As we know, Trump and his supporters repeatedly claim that the real story is how all these leaks are happening and why nobody does anything about them. While leaks are a problem, they are not the main story. The Trump administration uses them as a deflection.

It’s not clear whether Mueller will actually pursue the charge of obstruction of justice. However, if he does, it will ultimately be Congress’ decision as to what to do with it – not the DOJ’s. And Congressional Republicans seem to be adamant that they won’t impeach. However, if Mueller is able to lay out a convincing enough case, then Congress may find itself without any choice but to impeach.

Featured image via Alex Wong/Getty Images