With the scandal du jour of the Comey memo, President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia looks less like a diplomatic flight as fleeing the jurisdiction. For the first time, the Comey memo pushes the litany of controversies surrounding Trump into the scope of the United States criminal code.
However, if this is food for obstruction of justice, it is still an awfully thin soup. Some commentators seem to be alleging criminal conduct in office or calling for impeachment before Trump completed the words of his inaugural oath of office. Not surprising, within minutes of the New York Times report, the response was a chorus of breathless “gotcha” announcements. But this memo is neither the Pentagon Papers nor the Watergate tapes. Indeed, it raises as many questions for Comey as it does Trump in terms of the alleged underlying conduct.
A good place to start would be with the federal law, specifically 18 U.S.C. 1503. The criminal code demands more than what Comey reportedly describes in his memo. There are dozens of different variations of obstruction charges ranging from threatening witnesses to influencing jurors. None would fit this case. That leaves the omnibus provision on attempts to interfere with the “due administration of justice.”