Dismantling Justin Amash’s Obstruction Argument

Justin Amash has become an albatross upon the liberty movement in the last week. Through his calls to impeach President Trump, Amash has burned much of the goodwill the movement had built up through the actions of Rand Paul and Thomas Massie during the Trump era. Worst of all, he did so base upon logic which is fundamentally anti libertarian.

Amash has posted several tweet threads supporting a narrative on obstruction not dissimilar from those pushed by networks such as CNN. In his latest thread, among many other things, Amash lays out  an argument on obstruction which will strike any libertarian who has read the Mueller report as absurd.

For the vast majority of Americans who have not read the entire report, I have broken down below exactly why Amash is wrong below. I list Amash’s six reasons in quotes, with my response directly below each one.

“1. Trump asked the FBI director to stop investigating Michael Flynn, who had been his campaign adviser and national security adviser, and who had already committed a crime by lying to the FBI.”

First of all, there’s no evidence that this conversation took place beyond the word of James Comey. We have his claim, and a “memo” that he illegally leaked to the press. The same James Comey who submitted a FISA warrant application which claimed Christopher Steele’s dossier was verified, when he months later went on to call it unverified when testifying to Congress. Comey’s word vs Trump’s is what you would base an obstruction charge on if this were your argument. That doesn’t pass the laugh test.

Even if you can get past both of those things, they did not let the Flynn thing go and the POTUS never pushed them to do so afterwards, therefore no actions resulted from these alleged conversations between the POTUS and the FBI Director. No obstructive act can happen if no act happened.

“2. After AG Sessions recused himself from the Russian investigation on the advice of DoJ ethics lawyers, Trump directly asked Sessions to reverse his recusal so that he could retain control over the investigation and help the president.”

Asking the Attorney General to remain in charge of an investigation does not end the investigation, it does not impede the investigation, it does not deprive the investigation of any item required to complete it, and therefore it does not obstruct. Furthermore, the reasoning Amash spells out for why Trump did this is pure speculation. There are competing speculations which are just as valid as his, if not moreso. Some were even in the Mueller report.

Even if asking someone not to recuse themselves would rise to the level of obstruction in normal circumstances (it wouldn’t), the POTUS has Article II power over his inferior officers. Even if you could get past the fact that there’s no obstructive act, no attempt to end the investigation, no misconduct of any kind, the argument fails because of that. Even if you can get past both of those things, Sessions remained recused, therefore no actions resulted from these conversations between the POTUS and the Attorney General. No obstructive act can happen if no act happened. Next argument.

“3. Trump directed the White House counsel, Don McGahn, to have Special Counsel Mueller removed on the basis of pretextual conflicts of interest that Trump’s advisers had already told him were “ridiculous” and could not justify removing the special counsel.”

Like keeping on Sessions as the AG, removing Mueller as head of the special counsel does not end the special counsel. It does not end the investigation, it does not impede the investigation, it does not deprive the investigation of any item required to complete it, and therefore it does not obstruct.

This makes the reasoning for having done this irrelevant, but the implication that the reasoning matters goes to the notion of corrupt intent, so let’s briefly address that. Donald Trump had what he described as a “nasty business transaction” involving Robert Mueller. Mueller applied to be the FBI director and didn’t get the job. Mueller was a close personal friend of James Comey. For all of these reasons, Trump may very well have thought the conflicts were legitimate and disagreed with McGahn. Therefore, proving intent is also virtually impossible.

Furthermore, and most importantly, McGahn did not follow through on this alleged request. Not a single action was taken as the result of these discussions between the POTUS and his White House Counsel. Since no act was taken at all, there was no obstructive act. Next argument.

“4. When that event was publicly reported, Trump asked that McGahn make a public statement and create a false internal record stating that Trump had not asked him to fire the special counsel, and suggested that McGahn would be fired if he did not comply.”

Let’s say that this was true, and Donald Trump intentionally told Don McGahn to lie to the public about Trump asking him to fire Mueller. Lying to the media and the American people is not lying to the special counsel, and therefore cannot possibly be considered obstruction of justice. Since the special counsel never asked him this question directly, it could not have possibly been necessary to their investigation, so the idea that this statement to the press deprived them of something necessary to their investigation is refuted by the record.

Furthermore, Mueller actually laid out a fairly strong argument that Trump genuinely disputed McGahn’s characterization that he told McGahn to fire Mueller. Finally, McGahn refused the alleged request and never called Rod Rosenstein to make this case. So, even if you threw the entire above paragraph away, no action resulted from these discussions between the POTUS and his White House Counsel. That fact alone makes any obstruction argument absurd.

“5. Trump asked Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, to tell AG Sessions to limit the special counsel’s investigation only to future election interference. Trump said Lewandowski should tell Sessions he was fired if he would not meet with him.”

Similarly to the above, Trump disputes this characterization, and Lewandowski says he refused the alleged order and never told Sessions to do this. The only evidence you have that it took place is the word of a former campaign manager, and even if you could prove it happened there wasn’t a single action which resulted from these alleged discussions. So, you have the problem of it being one mans word against another, and then the problem of no action having resulted from the alleged discussion. That makes the case that an obstructive act occurred untenable.

“6. Trump used his pardon power to influence his associates, including Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, not to fully cooperate with the investigation.”

That is just plainly false. Let’s break down what Amash is claiming that Mueller laid out as evidence of Trump ‘using his pardon power’ in these cases:

What Mueller claimed that Trump and Trump aides said to Cohen consisted of support lines such as “the POTUS wants to check in and see if you’re okay”, “hang in there”, “stay strong”, “the POTUS says he loves you and not to worry” and “You are loved, stay well tonight, you have friends in high places”. This was all in the aftermath of Cohen’s office being raided by the feds. None of these messages mention a pardon or hint at anything transactional. The notion that these messages amounted to dangling his pardon power over Cohen is absurd.

The only thing Mueller says in relation to pardons is that Cohen claims he discussed one with the POTUS’s personal counsel, and that he understood the counsel’s responses to these questions that “(Cohen) would be fine” to mean that he would get a pardon as long as he stayed on message. A convicted perjurer saying that he understood this as an implication. Not exactly ironclad credibility or a bombshell allegation.

The evidence in regards to Manafort is even flimsier. It consists of two pieces of evidence: Trump saying Manafort was treated unfairly in public and Guiliani suggesting in TV interviews that nonspecific people may be pardoned, but only once the investigation ends.

In the case of both, Mueller brought up the instances of Trump saying that neither Cohen nor Manafort would “flip”. At every point where Trump says this he makes clear that he believes this is a witch hunt investigation, and that “flipping” means they will tell the investigators a falsehood at his expense in exchange for a reduced sentence. These lines are no evidence of obstruction, they are evidence that Trump knew he was dealing with dirty cops.

To review, not only did Amash not manage to point out an obstructive act in his analysis of the Mueller report, his impotent attempt exposes the inherent weakness of the argument for obstruction. 5 of the 6 things he brings up involve conversations (some of which are disputed by Trump himself) between Trump and various campaign and White House officials, where in each case the White House or campaign official in question did not act upon what was supposedly discussed.

In each of these cases, since there was no act taken at all, there can be no obstructive act.

In the final case, the notion of dangling pardons for Cohen and Manafort, Amash relies on generic well wishing and Guiliani stating the President’s pardon powers as a basis for the notion that there was an implication that President Trump would pardon these people. No quid pro quo was established, no offer was ever made, and no pardon was ever granted.

Make no mistake, ladies and gentlemen, you should be very angry at Justin Amash for the position his anti liberty stance has put every Liberty Conservative in with the GOP base. His pro FBI crusade, if it is allowed to be seen as the libertarian position, may have severe negative repercussions upon our movement which last for a very long time.