President Donald Trump's personal defense lawyer, attorney John Dowd, has asserted that a president cannot technically be guilty of obstruction of justice. Special counsel Robert Mueller is currently investigating whether Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey.
On Dec. 4, Dowd told Axios the "President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution's Article II] and has every right to express his view on any case."
Former White House counsel Bob Bauer of the Obama administration pushed back at Dowd's legal theory, stating, "It is certainly possible for a president to obstruct justice."
On Dec. 1, former national security adviser Michael T. Flynn pleaded guilty for lying to FBI agents about his communications with Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergei Kislyak in December 2016 about U.S. sanctions against Russia. Flynn announced he would cooperate with Mueller's probe into whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Russian officials to subvert the 2016 election.
"My guilty plea and agreement to cooperate with the Special Counsel's Office to reflect a decision I made in the best interests of my family and of our country," Flynn said. "I accept full responsibility for my actions."
On Jan. 26, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed the White House counsel that there was evidence Flynn had lied to the FBI. Yates was fired from the Department of Justice on Jan. 31 for refusing to enforce Trump's executive order on travel. Flynn resigned on Feb. 13, after reports emerged that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Kislyak, according to The Washington Post.
On May 9, Trump dismissed Comey from the FBI. On June 8, the former director testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that Trump had asked him to drop a federal investigation into Flynn on Feb. 14, reports The New York Times.
Comey stated that Trump had asked him during a private meeting, "'I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.'"
On Dec. 2, following Flynn's guilty plea, Trump's Twitter account issued a statement defending the former national security adviser.
"I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI," Trump's account tweeted. "He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!"
Critics of the president asserted that the tweet was evidence Trump knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when he allegedly asked Comey to drop the investigation, CNN reports.
"Are you ADMITTING you knew Flynn had lied to the FBI when you asked Comey to back off Flynn?" tweeted former Office of Government Ethics director Walter Shaub of the Obama administration.
"If that is true, Mr. President, why did you wait so long to fire Flynn?" tweeted Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff of California. "Why did you fail to act until his lies were publicly exposed? And why did you pressure Director Comey to 'let this go?"
On Dec. 3, Dowd asserted he had actually drafted the Trump tweet that referenced Flynn lying to the FBI.
"The tweet did not admit obstruction," Dowd said. "That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion."
The attorney added, "I'm out of the tweeting business."