Even if Comey is to be believed, there's no obstruction case against Trump

The headline “Comey lays out a case of possible obstruction” (June 9) seriously misrepresents reality, as does the tenor of the accompanying article. I am a retired career federal prosecutor who prosecuted white-collar crimes in 34 federal districts across the nation, and the simple fact is that former FBI director James Comey's belief or sense that President Donald Trump wanted him to drop the Michael Flynn investigation, even if that is an accurate assessment, is of no import. There are two federal statutes that could apply, 18 USC 1503 (omnibus obstruction of justice) and 18 USC 1510 (obstruction of a criminal investigation), and Mr. Comey's rendition omits crucial elements of each of those offenses.

First, Section 1503 requires that there be a pending judicial proceeding, and there is none involving Mr. Flynn. Second, Section 1510 requires bribery, and even the most expansive interpretations of Mr. Comey's testimony fall short of alleging that the president attempted to bribe him.

Whether a sitting president could be indicted is an interesting aside posited in the article, but again it is a purely academic question since there first needs to a crime, and that requires evidence of every element of the offense as set out in the relevant statute. And since the elements of obstruction are lacking, the hypothesized basis for impeachment is also lacking.

One additional point that seems to have escaped the notice of the press is that the president has the power to pardon Mr. Flynn in the event that the FBI's investigation led to his indictment, and that puts an expression of hope that Mr. Flynn would not be indicted in a different light altogether.

Since the pardon power obviates any need for the president to try to obstruct justice to help Mr. Flynn, isn't his explanation that he had no such intention more likely than Mr. Comey's supposed interpretation of the conversation

David Farnham, Parkville

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