Hamline University Professor Explains How Possible Presidential Pardons and Paying Hush Money to Stormy Daniels Strengthens Obstruction of Justice Claims

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The obstruction of justice and other potential criminal charges against Donald Trump were strengthened by Giuliani’s admission about paying hush money to Stormy Daniels, and the use of presidential pardons may make problems worse for the president.

David Schultz

Giuliani’s admission closes an important circle, connects critical dots, and portends far more serious problems for Trump than simply a violation of campaign finance laws.

Hamline University professor David Schultz, noted expert on constitutional law and legal ethics, argued today that obstruction of justice and other potential criminal charges against President Donald Trump were strengthened by Giuliani’s admission about paying hush money to Stormy Daniels. He also argued that presidential pardons to shut down the investigations may constitute new evidence of obstruction of justice.

According to Schultz: “Giuliani’s admission closes an important circle, connects critical dots, and portends far more serious problems for Trump than simply a violation of campaign finance laws. Trump always had plausible denial that his attorney Michael Cohen had gone rogue when he made payments to stormy Daniels to silence her, even though the general presumption is that lawyers act as agents for their clients. Acting alone, one could argue that Cohen’s payments were independent expenditures meant to influence the presidential campaign and therefore should have been reported, as required by federal campaign finance law. Giuliani’s statement clearly ties Cohen, to Trump and Daniels and it now raises questions about possible illegal activity of Trump or the Trump campaign regarding the 2016 election. Even more powerfully, for a president who claimed he has done nothing wrong, this connection impeaches Trump’s credibility, raising questions about his motives regarding other criminal allegations he is facing, as well as whether he took other action to obstruct justice.”

Schultz, author of more than 35 books and 150 articles on various aspects of American law and politics, including his most recent two volume Constitutional Law in Contemporary America, (West Academic), said on Thursday that critical to establishing obstruction of justice under federal law is showing a corrupt intent meant to impede a criminal investigation. The acknowledgment of the Stormy Daniels payment provides evidence of an intent to hide or obstruct information, leaving open interesting questions regarding whether he has undertaken other actions with the intent of concealing information or obstructing the legal.

Additionally Schultz, who teaches government ethics and criminal law, also said: “If Trump thinks that issuing pardons to his attorney Michael Cohen or other will stop the criminal inquiry, he is wrong. First, while presidents may issue pardons, if the purpose of the pardon is to impede a criminal investigation, that pardon may be evidence of obstruction of justice. Second, the use of a pardon will remove the ability of individuals to assert their Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, thereby making it more probable that people such as his attorney would potentially have to provide against evidence against the president. Any pardons at this point by the president are suspect and potentially more damaging to the president than even Giuliani’s statements.

Schultz is a professor of political science at Hamline University. He has taught classes on American government and election law for more than 25 years. A three time Fulbright scholar and winner of the Leslie A. Whittington national award for excellence in public affairs teaching, David Schultz is the author and editor of 35 books and 150 articles on American politics and law and is a frequently quoted political analyst in the local, national, and international media.

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David Schultz, Professor, [email protected]
Hamline University, St Paul, MN
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