Collusion, Conspiracy and Obstruction: Defining Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeanors

For months, President Donald Trump and his surrogates have lied incessantly about potentially illegal communications with operatives of the Russian government during the 2016 presidential election. What makes it almost hilarious is that they have lied on record and when the “receipts” show up in the form of email and old Tweets, they play the inexperienced card in hopes of getting passes for their pathological lies, or by telling their dwindling fan base that even the emails and Tweets are lies or Fake News.

Growing up the way I did, I became accustomed to my mother saying that “if you lie, you will steal, if you steal, you will kill.” Indeed, in my house, lying was a sure-fire way to get your behind whipped and being the youngest child, I learned early on to just “come clean” and hope to please my folks with honesty when I had made a mistake.

President Trump clearly was not raised with such teachings, and as we learn new details seemingly each day about his penchant for dialectical mendacity both great and small, the lawyer in me thought it important to define some of the vocabulary terms and phrases that are being tossed around on Cable News shows. These include:

1. Collude: intransitive verb, “to conspire or plot”

2. Conspire: transitive verb, “to act in harmony toward a common end”

3. Plot: noun, “a secret plan for accomplishing a usually evil or unlawful end.”

4. Obstruction, per 18 U.S.C. 1215: There are three elements to an obstruction charge under federal law: “(1) there was a proceeding pending before a department or agency of the United States; (2) the defendant knew of or had a reasonably founded belief that the proceeding was pending; and (3) the defendant corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which the proceeding was pending.”

5. Collusion, per 18 U.S.C. § 953: “Any citizen of the United States, wherever he may be, who, without authority of the United States, directly or indirectly commences or carries on any correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”

Vocabulary applied: “The evidence seemingly gets stronger each day that Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign ‘colluded’ with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton. To date, it is crystal clear that Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, Mike Flynn, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, Jared Kushner, Donald Trump Jr and others met with various Russian officials and ‘conspired’ to gather information from a foreign adversary about their domestic political adversaries. The ‘plot,’ it appears, included a secret meeting to gather ‘damaging’ information about Clinton; information regarding Clinton’s emails were disseminated by Tweet by then Candidate Trump himself not long after his son Donald eagerly met with Russian government affiliated lawyer Natalie Veselnitskaya. As Trump and the aforementioned men have persistently lied, demurred, and obfucscated the facts when pressed by the press for information about meetings with the Russians, each of these men has lawyered up in fear of being indicted for violating 18 U.S.C. § 953, a statute that punishes such collusion by up to three years imprisonment. Their lawyers are already providing spin for possible indictment under 18 U.S.C. 1215, Obstruction of Justice, by claiming that with regards to Trump the Elder and Younger, that they were ‘businessmen’ who were ‘inexperienced” or ‘naive,’ thus lacking ‘intent’ to commit a criminal offense. Nevertheless, as for President Trump, the question remains that if he and his son and other surrogates did nothing wrong, why not tell the truth from the get go? The answer is clear–it is because they knew that such meetings were certainly unethical if not illegal, and in their arrogance, they assume that since Hillary Clinton was not indicted by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch for any offenses whatsoever, that the same ‘wink-nod’ rules will apply to any analysis of whether Trump has committed the requisite ‘high crimes and misdemeanors’ for impeachment.”

Any questions? Class dismissed…