Truth About Obstruction of Justice: A Review of the Statutory Law

I remain dumbfounded that there has been no serious commentary about what an obstruction of justice charge against the President, or anyone else, would require.

As I have previously written, it is not sufficient to simply throw out the term “obstruction of justice” and make political arguments to prove that the President committed a crime. A criminal charge must be brought under a criminal STATUTE. Thus far, in all of the commentary about obstruction of justice that I have heard or read, I have not come across anyone who has identified a single statute that they allege the President violated.

This morning however, while watching FBI Director Christopher Wray testify evasively before the House Judiciary Committee, Congressman Gerald Nadler finally did identify two statues which he claims President Trump violated. However, as I will demonstrate here, neither statue applies. Nadler cited 18 USC 1503 and 18 USC 1505. I will address them in turn.

18 USC 1503 – Influencing or Injuring Officer or Juror Generally

(a) Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, endeavors to influence, intimidate, or impede any grand or petit juror, or officer in or of any court of the United States, or officer who may be serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate, in the discharge of his duty, or injures any such grand or petit juror in his person or property on account of any verdict or indictment assented to by him, or on account of his being or having been such juror, or injures any such officer, magistrate judge, or other committing magistrate in his person or property on account of the performance of his official duties, or corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b). If the offense under this section occurs in connection with a trial of a criminal case, and the act in violation of this section involves the threat of physical force or physical force, the maximum term of imprisonment which may be imposed for the offense shall be the higher of that otherwise provided by law or the maximum term that could have been imposed for any offense charged in such case.

(b) The punishment for an offense under this section is—

(1) in the case of a killing, the punishment provided in sections 1111 and 1112;

(2) in the case of an attempted killing, or a case in which the offense was committed against a petit juror and in which a class A or B felony was charged, imprisonment for not more than 20 years, a fine under this title, or both; and

(3) in any other case, imprisonment for not more than 10 years, a fine under this title, or both.

Quite obviously, this statute does not apply. It applies only to improperly attempting to influence jurors or court officers. Beyond that, it requires “threats of force” or a “threatening letter or communication.” There is no allegation that President Trump threatened force or sent a threatening letter or communication. The allegation that the President violated this statute is absurd.


18 USC 1505 – Obstruction of Proceedings Before Departments, Agencies, and Committees

Whoever, with intent to avoid, evade, prevent, or obstruct compliance, in whole or in part, with any civil investigative demand duly and properly made under the Antitrust Civil Process Act, willfully withholds, misrepresents, removes from any place, conceals, covers up, destroys, mutilates, alters, or by other means falsifies any documentary material, answers to written interrogatories, or oral testimony, which is the subject of such demand; or attempts to do so or solicits another to do so; or

Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

Shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 5 years or, if the offense involves international or domestic terrorism (as defined in section 2331), imprisoned not more than 8 years, or both.

The first part of this statute is irrelevant as it only relates to “investigative demands” made under the Antitrust Civil Processes Act.

The second part of the statute also does not apply. As with section 1503, it requires “threats of force” or a “threatening letter or communication.” There have been no such allegations about the President. Once again, the allegation that the President violated this statute is absurd.

Furthermore, it applies only to a “proceeding” being had before a “department or agency of the United States.” In this context, a “proceeding” is an official departmental or agency proceeding, such as an administrative law hearing. An investigation is not a “proceeding.”

No Obstruction of Justice

I will reiterate what I have been writing and speaking about for months – since the firing of former FBI Director James Comey: Based on the information we have, President Trump did not commit obstruction of justice. His actions and statements do not come anywhere close to violating any obstruction of justice statute. Neither firing James Comey, nor his expression of hope that the investigation into Michael Flynn be dropped, come anywhere close to being a crime. Not under under either of the two statues I discussed above, and not under any other. And you do not need to take my word for it, I urge you to investigate the matter yourself.

18 US Code Chapter 73 is titled “Obstruction of Justice.” Under that chapter, there are more than 20 individual statutes. Not a single one applies to the facts of this case. The two I have addressed are not remotely applicable, and the rest are even less so. I encourage you to read them. When you do, allow me to suggest that you should be angry. You should be angry at all the commentators and politicians who are misinforming you about the law. Those, like Congressman Gerald Nadler, who know the truth about the law, are intentionally lying to you. Others, who really have no idea what they are talking about, a group which I submit constitute the vast majority of those commenting on this issue, deserve your ire for self-righteously opining about that which they know almost nothing.

Mark Pantano is a Constitutional Conservative Writer, lawyer, and political commentator. Author of the short book “Destroying Trump.” His daily podcast, “The Mark Pantano Show” is scheduled to debut February 2018.