I recently wrote a Washington Post column explaining that, while I viewed the moves by President Donald Trump against impeachment witnesses was wrong, it was not criminal as claimed by legal analysts like CNN’s Elie Honig. Yesterday, Honig responded by arguing in a column that he and “other former prosecutors” are quite confident that the action clearly constituted the crime of witness retaliation. While Honig does not actually explain how the President’s conduct specifically violated the stated elements in the federal code, even a cursory consideration of the elements of the crime belie his assertion. Trump’s actions with regard to Vineland and Sondland would not constitute criminal witness retaliation.
For the last three years, we have had a series of crimes declared as “clearly established” by former prosecutors based on alleged Russian collusion, Ukrainian collusion, and other controversies. Indeed, Honig most recently, insisted in the Ukrainian controversy that the crimes of bribery and extortion were clear as crime and impeachable offenses. In my recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee regarding President Trump’s impeachment, I opposed the position of my fellow witnesses that the definition of actual crimes is immaterial to their use as the basis for impeachment — and I specifically opposed impeachment articles based on bribery, extortion, campaign finance violations or obstruction of justice. The committee ultimately rejected those articles and adopted the only two articles I felt could be legitimately advanced: abuse of power, obstruction of Congress. Chairman Jerrold Nadler even ended the hearing by quoting my