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Liberal law professor's answer to Trump obstruction claim 'isn't going to be real popular

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley says he doesn't think President Donald Trump obstructed justice by reportedly asking then-FBI Director James Comey to close the agency's investigation into ousted White House national security adviser Michael Flynn. (Image source: YouTube screenshot)

George Washington University law professor Jonathan Turley rejected Tuesday any claims that President Donald Trump committed obstruction of justice by reportedly asking then-FBI Director James Comey to stop the agency's probe into ousted White House national security adviser Gen. Michael Flynn.

Since The New York Times reported Tuesday that Trump had made the request of the former FBI director, some Democrats have said that if the report is true, then the president may have obstructed justice. A number of lawmakers on the left and the right have even compared Trump's actions to Watergate.

But Turley said he isn't convinced that Trump did anything illegal.

The liberal law professor, who is well-respected by individuals on both sides of the aisle, made the comment on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Referring to the timeline of events related to Flynn and Comey so far during the Trump administration, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough asked Turley if it is true that "there are a lot of prosecutors across America who would be very comfortable with going in front of any federal judge and trying to prove obstruction of justice under that fact pattern."

Turley responded by acknowledging that his answer likely would not be well-received by some.

"This isn't going to be real popular, but I don't think so," Turley said.

Turley compared Trump critics suggesting that the U.S. may be nearing impeachment proceedings, despite the lack of evidence so far proving he did anything illegal, to traveling across the country with his family and them constantly asking "'Are we there yet?'"

"Everyone wants to reach that point and you say, 'Well, I can still see our house,'" Turley said.

Similarly, of Trump's presidency, Turley said, "It's only been 150 days or so since the inauguration." Trump was inaugurated Jan. 20, which was 116 days ago.

"The fact is, I don't think think this makes out an obstruction case," Turley said.

In an opinion editorial published Tuesday morning by The Hill, Turley explained why he does not think Trump is in legal trouble.

"There are dozens of different variations of obstruction charges ranging from threatening witnesses to influencing jurors. None would fit this case," Turley wrote.

Turley cited 18 USC 1505, which defines "obstruction of justice" as follows:

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.

"Encouraging leniency or advocating for an associate is improper but not necessarily seeking an unlawful benefit for him," Turley continued.

Turley said that Comey's memo, which the New York Times cited in its reporting, "raises as many questions for Comey as it does Trump in terms of the alleged underlying conduct."

"The account suggests that Comey was so concerned about the conversation that he wrote a memorandum for record. But that would suggest that Comey thought the president was trying to influence the investigation but then said nothing to the Justice Department or to his investigation team," Turley wrote.

Turley then questioned why the former FBI director would not have told investigators of his conversation with the president.

"That would seem relevant to the scope of the investigation," Turley concluded.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Turley is a law professor at Georgetown University. He is actually a law professor at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

(H/T: Legal Insurrection)

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