Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie knocked the claim from Donald Trump’s legal team that, by nature of his office, the President cannot obstruct justice and could simply shut down the Russia investigation altogether.
“It’s an outrageous claim, it’s wrong,” the former Republican governor said on ABC News’ “This Week.”
Christie, who was a former federal prosecutor before becoming governor, added that Trump’s legal team “was trying to make a broad argument.”
The argument from the President’s lawyers, Jay Sekulow and then-Trump attorney John Dowd, came in a confidential January letter to special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including a related question of whether Trump has obstructed justice with regard to that probe.
The lawyers wrote in the 20-page letter that the President cannot illegally obstruct the Russia probe because he, as the top law enforcement officer, has authority over all federal investigations.
“It remains our position that the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired,” they wrote in the letter, which The New York Times published Saturday.
The two argued that “no President has ever faced charges of obstruction merely for exercising his constitutional authority” and that a president can “order the termination” of a Justice Department or FBI investigation “at any time and for any reason.”
On Sunday, Christie pointed to Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s comments earlier Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” in which Giuliani appeared to downplay the argument from Sekulow and Dowd, who resigned in March, that Trump could shut down the Russia probe if he so chooses. Giuliani was not part of Trump’s counsel when Dowd and Sekulow sent the letter to Mueller.
“You’d have to ask John exactly what he’s relying on for that,” Giuliani told ABC News. “I would not go that far.”
Giuliani added that Trump has no plans to pardon himself, but that he probably could.
“He has no intention of pardoning himself,” Giuliani said. He added, “It would be an open question. I think it would probably get answered by gosh, that’s what the Constitution says, and if you want to change it, change it. But yes.”
Giuliani also said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday that Trump pardoning himself is “unthinkable” and “would lead to probably an immediate impeachment.”
Former US attorney Preet Bharara said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” that it “would be outrageous” for a sitting president to pardon himself.
“I think (if) the President decided he was going to pardon himself, I think that’s almost self-executing impeachment,” Bharara, a CNN legal analyst, said. “Whether or not there is a minor legal argument that some law professor somewhere in a legal journal can make that the President can pardon, that’s not what the framers could have intended. That’s not what the American people, I think, would be able to stand for.”