Constitutional Expert Maintained Trump Did Not Collude With Russia
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Let's turn now to George Washington University legal scholar and constitutional expert Jonathan Turley. For the past couple years, he has been a vocal critic of claims that there was any collusion on the part of the president. Jonathan, thanks so much for being with us.
JONATHAN TURLEY: Thank you.
MARTIN: Can you take us through your thinking on why you have been so convinced from the very beginning that there was never going to be a charge of collusion?
TURLEY: Well, the collusion allegations never really were that convincing. There were problems factually and legally. There is no crime of collusion. But even crimes related to collusion really didn't...
MARTIN: Conspiracy - the more specific crime, yeah.
TURLEY: That's right. They really didn't pan out. First of all, it was highly improbable that the Russian intelligence services would bring in Donald Trump or Donald Trump Jr. as part of one of the highest-risk operations in its history and put themselves one tweet away from disaster. It just didn't really track. You know, you don't hold a conspiracy meeting at Trump Tower with half the media downstairs and not knowing who's actually going to attend the meeting. I mean, none of it really made that much sense, even though people really didn't want to see that.
There was a degree of willful blindness for many people who desperately wanted Robert Mueller to take away and rid them of this meddlesome president. And I think that part of the disappointment that you hear in people's voices today is that they have been really engaging in this level of denial, as to the collusion case. There really never was a very strong case there.
Now, in terms of obstruction, there was certainly evidence that could be viewed as obstruction, but even that was pretty weak. I mean, quite frankly, that question was answered by the attorney general and the deputy attorney general. Rod Rosenstein - who is someone that the Democrats tried to support in office, who believes strongly in his independence - he agreed that there's no obstruction case. And I have to agree on that. I think, quite frankly, to bring an obstruction case on these facts would be laughable. I mean, there's no underlying crime. And...
MARTIN: So Democrats would point out, you know, the firing of Jim Comey and, even though the media was downstairs, that meeting with that Russian lawyer in Trump Tower. You're saying that just wasn't a fire. It may have been a little bit of smoke, but it just wasn't enough.
TURLEY: Look, president Trump almost did the impossible; he almost counterpunched his way into an obstruction case. It's very hard to do that when there's not an original crime. But the president made a determined effort, and he came close. You know, the actions that he took were highly inappropriate. I mean, he made statements that clearly were designed to harass and try to interfere with the investigation, in the sense of his public position. So there's no question that what he did, what he said was wrong, but that doesn't make it a crime.
And I think what Attorney General Bill Barr said was that you can actually obstruct something if there's not an original crime, it's just pretty darn hard. I mean, what the conclusion appears to be from Mueller is that there was no collusion, but that the president took actions that could be viewed as obstructing the investigation. Now, with regard to the firing of James Comey, that never really would make a very good obstruction case. There were independent reasons to fire Comey. Rod Rosenstein laid out those...
MARTIN: Even though the president himself admitted that it was all about the investigation to Lester Holt of NBC.
TURLEY: Well, you know, he insists that - he certainly obviously did say that. But he also said before that that Comey's record at the FBI was highly controversial, and that many people did not agree with his actions, and that's also true. And I think part of the problem that people have here is that they want to believe that there is a criminal act there when there might just be reckless and frankly unpresidential conduct. And I have no question about that latter point.
MARTIN: Do you think the report should be made public?
TURLEY: Absolutely, and I think that Bill Barr is going to make it public. I've known him for years. And he said that he wants to put as much of that in front of the public as possible, and I think you can take that to the bank.
MARTIN: Jonathan Turley, constitutional expert, sharing his context and analysis for us this morning on the findings of the Mueller report. Thank you as always, professor Turley. We appreciate it.
TURLEY: Thank you.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.