United States

Determining Factors for Obstruction of Justice

The term "obstruction of justice" is being heard in the fallout over what former FBI Director James Comey reportedly wrote about his meeting with President Trump, but what does the term really mean and how could it land the President in hot water?

This federal law is set up so that no one can stand in the way of the FBI and other federal agents or Congress from getting the real answers they're looking for, not just about the Russians but any matter they are looking into.

The law says the obstruction needs to be intentional. It occurs when someone threatens, intimidates, or corruptly persuades a federal official and hinders information from being presented.

"If there is an ongoing criminal investigation and someone is going to stop that, or interfere, obstruct or evade that process, that is the definition of obstruction of justice," South Florida criminal defense attorney Eric Schwartzreich said.

Schwartzreich said it's extremely important as to who is the person that is attempting to influence an investigation. In this case reportedly it was the President who ex-FBI Director Comey wrote down asked him to drop an examination into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.

"I mean, you've got the Commander-in-Chief, the President of the United States, the director of the FBI in a room, and allegedly there's a comment 'I hope you can let this go,' now that's a comment that's not just coming from anybody, it's coming from the President of the United States," Schwartzreich said.

Another factor in determining obstruction is the totality of the circumstances. Experts say the president's tweets about Comey after the meeting are also a factor. Schwartzreich says Comey writing down notes is enough to be recognized by the courts.

"The law allows for an FBI agent to have a certain amount of veracity by the virtue of the fact as to who they are, that they are FBI agents," he said.

The White House Wednesday afternoon again denied what has been reported as former FBI director Comey's version of events. If it comes down to a "he-said-he-said," Comey's legal and law enforcement background will play an important role in determining if any obstruction of justice actually took place.

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