Crime & Courts

Trump is not above the law, former US attorney for SC says

Bill Nettles
Bill Nettles Gerry Melendez

A former U.S. attorney for South Carolina says he signed a letter with other former federal prosecutors across the country saying President Donald Trump’s conduct in trying to interfere with the Mueller investigation rises to the level of a criminal obstruction of justice charge.

“We as a collective community just get the sense that this was a whitewash,” said Bill Nettles, who was U.S. attorney for South Carolina for six years under former President Barack Obama.

The joint letter, signed by 802 other former Republican and Democratic prosecutors, was posted on the web site on May 6.

The 400-plus page letter says the Mueller report — summarizing the results of a 22-month investigation — found evidence of obstruction of justice against Trump so compelling that any other person than a sitting president would now be facing “multiple felony charges for obstruction of justice.”

The report, overseen by Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, is described in the prosecutors’ letter as containing “overwhelming” evidence that Trump tried to fire Mueller, falsify evidence, limit the scope of Mueller’s investigation and prevent witnesses from cooperating with investigators.

“As former federal prosecutors, we recognize that prosecuting obstruction of justice cases is critical because unchecked obstruction —which allows intentional interference with criminal investigations to go unpunished — puts our whole system of justice at risk,” the letter says.

Nettles also said he was concerned that U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr, in a public letter released March 24, apparently mischaracterized Mueller’s findings to make them appear less serious than they were.

It was such a mischaracterization, Nettles said, that Mueller wrote a letter to Barr saying, in effect, “Look, you guys aren’t putting this in the right light.”

Barr released his public letter purportedly summarizing the Mueller report on March 24 , leading many to conclude that Mueller had found no wrongdoing on Trump’s part.

On March 27, Mueller wrote a private letter to Barr, telling Barr that his public letter “did not fully capture the context, nature and substance” of findings in the Mueller report. Mueller’s letter was not made public until late April, when portions were leaked to The Washington Post and The New York Times.

Mueller’s report, some of which is redacted, was made public in mid-April.

Moreover, said Nettles, Trump now claims the Mueller report exonerated — or cleared — him, but he and members of his administration are resisting Mueller-related subpoenas to testify before Congress.

“You can’t have it all — if you are not going to be prosecuted, then why aren’t you cooperating with a co-equal branch of government?” said Nettles.