We knew it was coming, and here it is. Special Counsel to the President, Emmet T. Flood, has sent a letter to the RNC specifically telling them not to provide the e-mails requested by House Judiciary Chair John Conyers as part of the Committee's investigation of the U.S. Attorney scandal.
The full text of the letter is available at the TPM Document Collection. But here's the money quote:
We understand that once your client has reached an agreement on the appropriate search terms with the Judiciary Committee and has gathered information it believes responsive to the Letter's request, you will provide the Office of Counsel to the President with an opportunity to review such material before communicating it to any other person.
The "Letter" referred to is, of course, the letter that Chairman Conyers sent, requesting the e-mails, along with other information.
The stated purpose for the request for the RNC not to comply with the Letter, and the House Committee investigation is:
Such review is necessary to determine, among other things, (1) whether any materials implicating the Presidential Records Act are, in fact, involved, and (2) whether, the Executive Branch may need to take measures necessary to protect its other legal interests in communications responsive to the Letter's requests.
Just to be clear: having not taken any steps prior to disclosing these communications to a third party, (see my previous diary about that issue) to ensure the security of these communications, the White House Counsel's office is now expecting the RNC apparently with the RNC's agreement, to delay turning the requested e-mails and other communications over to the Judiciary Committee until the White House gives the okay.
Now, again, I'm a lawyer, but federal criminal prosecution is not my bailiwick. But here's the plain text of Title 18 (Crimes) of the U.S. Code, Part 1, Chapter 73, Section 1505:
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.
Link to the statute.
"Impedes . . . or endeavors to . . . impede the due and proper administration of the law . . ."
The definition of impede, in case anyone needs reminding, includes to hinder, slow, or delay.
I would, therefore, argue that we now have a pretty clear case that the White House Counsel's Office is now obstructing justice, in plain view of the public and the MSM. The WH is clearly attempting to influence, by means of it's letter, the RNC to not comply with the Committee's investigation.
I would also argue that, again, the RNC, if it complies with this "request" of the White House, or agrees to this scheme, is complicit in the White House obstruction, and is, in fact, obstructing justice itself. Take a look at that first part: "Whoever corruptly . . . impedes . . ." Just because the WH tries to influence the RNC doesn't mean that the RNC has to cave to that pressure (leaving aside whether the RNC would seriously attempt to resist the WH).
So. Anybody seeing any coverage of this? I watched KO last night, and he had Jonathon Turley on, but even they didn't discuss anything about waiver of executive privilege, or obstruction, and the effect of the WH having disclosed these communications to 3rd, 4th, 5th, parties, as these e-mails went from one server to another to another.
This is an issue which, I would argue, needs to start getting some coverage. Maybe if enough of us e-mail Keith at firstname.lastname@example.org, he'll get Turley to get the ball rolling.
Thanks, Kossacks! I'll stick around for a little while, but I've got Court later, so this will be something of a drive-by.
Update: Didn't see this one while I was writing mine, but MediaFreeze has
this related diary up. Take a look.
2nd Update: Sorry haven't been around to respond to all y'all, but had to go try to earn a living. And, I'm going to have to get the kids very shortly, so won't have time to respond until tomorrow or even later.
But I did want to thank everyone for taking the time to read, and thank MediaFreeze for the referrals.
Also, I would reiterate that I am not, have never been, a prosecutor, let alone a federal prosecutor, and am not experienced in this particular area of the law. Nevertheless, I think it's clear that the WH intends, and the RNC has apparently agreed, not to turn over documents/records/e-mails/communications which have been requested by the House Judiciary Committee.
This is the interesting part, that I've not had time to delve into. The HJC has not subpoenaed these documents, but I'm not convinced that a subpoena is necessary. That's the purpose of the Letter from Conyers; to let the RNC know that these communications are being sought pursuant to a Congressional investigation. So, whether a subpoena is issued or not, is not, to my mind (and that and $5 will get you latte in some places) material to the violation of the statute. I'd love to find some case law, but probably won't have time.
Secondly, of course, this would have to be acted upon by . . . the U.S. Attorney's Office, and the DOJ, becuase that's who is in charge of enforcing these laws, right? My point is simply this: there may be no way to stop the WH short of impeachment (personally that's what I believe). But if you are going to impeach, you've got to have grounds for impeachment, meaning specific "high crimes and misdemeanors." This appears to me to be obstruction of justice, by the administration. If Clinton was impeached for perjury . . .
The political will may or may not be there. But it's a moot question, until there's demonstrable grounds.
Gotta go, kids need me. Pay attention to the comments by Serendipity, Mary2002, Cliffy, and zashvil. Good points. Appreciate the discussion. Thanks, Kossacks!