Political News

Sessions in 1999: The President can obstruct justice

Posted December 5, 2017 5:56 p.m. EST

— President Donald Trump's lawyer maintains that a president cannot obstruct justice, but Trump's own attorney general once argued otherwise.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 1999 -- then a senator from Alabama -- said it was possible that then-President Bill Clinton had committed obstruction of justice during the course of a scandal involving Clinton's statements about an extramarital affair he had with a White House intern.

"I hope he can show he did not commit obstruction of justice and that he can complete his term," Sessions said in an unearthed C-SPAN clip. "But there are serious allegations that that occurred, and in America, the Supreme Court and the American people believe no one is above the law."

Sessions made similar comments during Clinton's impeachment trial in the Senate, which Politico was first to resurface. At the time, Sessions said Clinton "persisted in a continuous pattern to lie and obstruct justice."

Indeed, many Republicans lined up against Clinton at the time and moved to oust him from the presidency in part because of alleged obstruction. The House in 1998 approved two articles of impeachment against Clinton, one of which was for obstruction of justice.

Then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich supported impeachment for Clinton at the time, but this year he flipped on that position, saying, "Technically, the President of the United States cannot obstruct justice."

The Senate went on to consider the two charges against Clinton and ultimately acquitted him in February 1999.

In the face of similar questions of obstruction about Trump, the President's attorney John Dowd said Trump, by the nature of his office, could not obstruct justice.

Dowd told Axios: "(The) President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under (the Constitution's Article II) and has every right to express his view of any case."

The statement came as questions ramp up about whether Trump attempted to curtail ongoing legal investigations and it sparked a firestorm of political and legal discussion about whether such an action by the President would constitute obstruction of justice.,

Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday that she and her colleagues were working on a case of obstruction by the President and that their work is ongoing.