Speed Reads

russia probe

Trump's lawyers say the president can't obstruct justice because he'd be 'obstructing himself'

In a 20-page letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller obtained by The New York Times and published Saturday, President Trump's lawyers argue the president cannot obstruct justice because he has constitutional authority over all federal investigations, including the Russia probe. Trump can "terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon," the lawyers claim, and any actions he takes cannot "constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself."

The letter also confirms that Trump dictated the misleading statement made by his son, Donald Trump Jr., about the meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in 2016. Trump Jr. and the White House previously have denied the president's involvement in developing the statement.

Trump complained in advance of the letter's release on Twitter, suggesting Mueller is the person who leaked it:

The letter's broad and novel interpretation of executive power will likely be challenged in court, particularly if Trump's team deploys it to avoid compliance with a subpoena from the Mueller investigation. "Presidents frequently assert executive privilege, their right to refuse demands for information about internal executive branch dealings, but its limits are murky and mostly untested," the Times report notes. The president's lawyers may be hoping Mueller does not care to fight the legal battle such a test would entail.