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Barry Bonds, Martha Stewart, and Donald Trump: Obstructing What?

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Attorney General William Barr.

On Sunday, Attorney General William Barr released a very brief summary of the 300-page-long Mueller report, presenting what he called the “principal conclusions” of the special counsel’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s relationship to Russia during the 2016 election. According to Barr, Special Counsel Robert Mueller‘s investigation found no coordination between now-President Donald Trump‘s camp and the Russian government and declined to make a judgment as to whether Trump obstructed justice throughout the course of the investigation. Left to make the determination of whether to charge Trump with obstruction, Barr—together with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein—wrote that he found the evidence insufficient.

Since the Mueller report remains classified, the country must rely on Barr’s judgment here. However, Barr’s assertion in the summary that the absence of an underlying crime “bears on” whether Trump obstructed justice raised many a lawyer’s eyebrow. “Nothing in the obstruction statute requires that another crime has occurred,” says Robert Weisberg, the director of the Criminal Justice Center at Stanford Law. So Trump could have committed no illegal acts prior to the investigation and still have obstructed justice by interfering in the investigation.

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