Fourteen lawyers and law professors sent a letter to the White House on Monday rebutting a memo from President Donald Trump’s lawyers which asserted broad presidential power that would protect Trump from any ramifications in the Russia probe.
“The Office of the President is not a get-out-of-jail free card for lawless behavior,” the lawyers wrote. “Indeed, our country’s Founders made it clear in the Declaration of Independence that they did not believe that even a king had such powers…Our Founders would not have created — and did not create — a Constitution that would permit the President to use his powers to violate the laws for corrupt and self-interested reasons.”
The letter came in response to a New York Times report on Saturday that the Trump legal team sent Mueller a 20-page memo in January arguing that Trump was incapable of obstructing justice in the Russia collusion case because he could “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”
In their Monday letter, the legal experts argued that Trump could not end Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation or pardon himself afterwards without running afoul of the Constitution.
“The federal obstruction laws, with their bar on corruptly-motivated actions, apply whether the President obstructs an investigation through firing officials leading it, shutting down the investigation, ordering the destruction of documents, or dangling or issuing pardons to induce witnesses to impede the investigation,” they wrote.
“Just as the President could not use otherwise lawful firing powers in exchange for a bribe without running afoul of federal bribery laws, he is not free to exempt himself from the application of the obstruction of justice laws,” they added.
The letter is addressed specifically to Trump attorneys Donald McGahn and Emmet Flood and was organized by a group called “Protect Democracy,” a nonpartisan watchdog.