WASHINGTON - More than 400 former federal prosecutors contended in a letter that President Donald Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice for acts detailed in Robert Mueller's report if he were anyone other than the president.
The open letter, published Monday on Medium, was signed by 415 ex-prosecutors who served under both Democrat and Republican administrations. It was released by Protect Democracy, a nonprofit organization critical of the Trump administration.
The former Department of Justice prosecutors said special counsel Robert Mueller's report "describes several acts that satisfy all of the elements for an obstruction charge." However, an opinion from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel says sitting presidents cannot be indicted.
The acts highlighted from Mueller's report include Trump's efforts to fire Mueller and “to falsify evidence about the effort,” the letter states. The ex-prosecutors also cite Trump's alleged efforts to “limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation to exclude his conduct” and Trump's efforts to “prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators probing him and his campaign.”
“Each of us believes that the conduct of President Trump described in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report would, in the case of any other person not covered by the Office of Legal Counsel policy against indicting a sitting President, result in multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice,” the letter reads.
Mueller did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump criminally obstructed justice. Attorney General William Barr and Deputy Attorney Rod Rosenstein concluded Mueller's evidence was insufficient for an obstruction charge.
The letter added, “In our system, every accused person is presumed innocent and it is always the government’s burden to prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. But, to look at these facts and say that a prosecutor could not probably sustain a conviction for obstruction of justice — the standard set out in Principles of Federal Prosecution — runs counter to logic and our experience.”
“We believe strongly that, but for the OLC memo, the overwhelming weight of professional judgment would come down in favor of prosecution for the conduct outlined in the Mueller Report,” the letter reads.
As of Monday afternoon, the statement had 415 signatures, including more than 100 by officials who have served for 20 years or more in the Department of Justice. The letter said the names of other former federal prosecutors who wish to sign would be added.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.