Trump Can't Obstruct Justice Because He's President, His Lawyer Says

President Donald Trump returns to the White House from New York on December 2. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

President Donald Trump, or any other commander in chief, can't be found guilty of obstructing justice because the Constitution says so, according to one of Trump's top lawyers.

John Dowd, among several attorneys representing the president, told Axios that the Constitution makes Trump the nation's top cop, so by definition the president "cannot obstruct justice, because he is the chief law enforcement officer," Dowd said. He added that Trump "has every right to express his view of any case."

The latter comment refers to Trump's tweets dismissing special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into the Trump campaign's alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. Most recently, Michael Flynn, the president's former national security adviser and campaign aide, pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI, and one day later, Trump's Twitter account posted a comment that could help bolster a case of obstruction:

"I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!" Trump posted, the first time he suggested he knew Flynn lied to investigators.

The tweet could be seen as evidence of obstruction of justice because Trump later reportedly asked then-FBI Director James Comey to "let" the Flynn thing "go."

Dowd said that he wrote the tweet. Not that it matters, because the president can't be found guilty of obstruction, the lawyer claims.

It's not clear which section of the Constitution's Article II Dowd was referencing, though Section Two does read: " The president] may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices."

But according to Dowd, the tweet was the furthest thing from an admission of guilt or obstruction.

"The tweet did not admit obstruction. That is an ignorant and arrogant assertion," Dowd told Axios.

Dowd's comments hark back to former President Richard Nixon's defense of his actions in office. Nixon, who resigned in August 1974 before he could be impeached, famously said during his interviews with British journalist David Frost in 1977 that "when the president does it, that means it is not illegal."

In Nixon's case, he was talking about the cover-up in the Watergate scandal, while Trump's case involves the president's powers over the Justice Department. Trump lamented in November that the "saddest thing" about being president is that he is "not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department" and the "FBI."

Trump then asked why the Justice Department was not going after his former presidential opponent, Hillary Clinton, and her private email server scandal. He also wondered why the department was not investigating Clinton's campaign for hiring the company that created the infamous Trump-Russia dossier that has dogged Trump's first year in office.

Trump Can't Obstruct Justice Because He's President, His Lawyer Says | U.S.