I think Scott Turow does an especially good job of making the point that others are making today: it’s criminal to obstruct a governmental investigation, whether or not the thing being investigated turns out to be a crime in and of itself.
Put another way: sometimes you obstruct to hide a crime. Sometimes you obstruct to hide something else. Either way, obstruction is obstruction.
Barr’s conclusion that obstruction can’t be proven beyond a reasonable doubt involves bootstrapping that is utter nonsense in this case. Barr—just like Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani—claims that ordinarily obstruction requires a nexus to an underlying crime. Because Mueller found the evidence insufficient to prove that Trump actively conspired with the Russians to interfere with the election, traditional legal reasoning would say he’s not likely to have committed obstruction either. Barr says, “Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding.” …
Throughout his election campaign and long after, Trump denied that Russia was responsible for the massive interference in our election that Mueller has now concluded occurred. Trump made these denials “despite,” to quote Barr, “multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.” Aside from any crimes Trump or his campaign committed by being in cahoots with the Russians, there are other clear gains to Trump in hindering the investigation. The most obvious is that the Russian interference, which both Barr and Mueller say the Trump campaign knew about, calls the legitimacy of the 2016 election into question.
With our focus on whether the president is going to jail, we have run past a point that is now undeniable: Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States after a sustained series of crimes by the Russian government aimed at boosting his chances of winning. Because of the political damage to the president that Russia’s criminal interference posed, he had an obvious reason to terminate the investigation. In other words, he had something to hide, and the Mueller inquiry seems to have concluded that there was plenty of evidence that he hid it.
To argue that no underlying crime means no obstruction is therefore nonsense. That is fallacious reasoning and it impugns Barr’s integrity and his reputation as a lawyer. Worse, it represents a troubling effort to paper over the acknowledged evidence that Mr. Trump committed a crime in public view.