In response to the indictment of a group of Russians for meddling with the 2016 presidential election, Trump seems to have asked why Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not investigated the crimes of President Obama, because the meddling happened during the Obama administration, and “. . . . [he] [didn’t] do something about [it].” The allegation came in the form of a tweet, which read:
Question: If all of the Russian meddling took place during the Obama Administration, right up to January 20th, why aren’t they the subject of the investigation? Why didn’t Obama do something about the meddling? Why aren’t Dem crimes under investigation? Ask Jeff Sessions!
Trump’s question as to why Jeff Sessions, the Attorney General, is not investigating the Obama Administration and the the crimes of the Democrats, reads as an allegation of criminal conduct. The fact that he sandwiched Obama’s lack of action in the middle of his question further suggests that President Obama, by virtue of his inaction, is guilty of a crime. If that analysis is correct, the President is suggesting that acquiescence in the face of a complete conspiracy is criminal conduct. There is some argument to made here (though a very poor one). Section 3 of Title 18 of the United States Code says that “whoever, knowing that an offense against the United States has been committed, receives, relieves, comforts or assists the offender in order to hinder or prevent his apprehension, trial or punishment, is an accessory after the fact.” This crime, though arguably the most relevant to Trump’s allegation, is a very bad fit. One would have to believe that Obama, in not speaking out harshly enough against the Russian meddlers, relieved, comforted, or assisted them to prevent their prosecution. One might argue that if Obama were to impose no sanctions on Russia he may in some way be preventing its “punishment.” Still, that would be a very abstract argument, because if President Obama had decided not to sanction the Russians, there would be no punishment to prevent. This argument is still more outrageous, in light of the fact that Obama DID sanction Russia for election meddling in the last two years of his administration.
All that being said, I think it is far from accurate to suggest that a less-than-fierce reaction to Russian election interference could be considered criminal. However, if it could, Trump would have something far worse to fear than President Obama — President Trump himself has yet to impose the Russian sanctions passed by Congress last year. Despite all this analysis, I doubt Trump meant to make a serious accusation. Rather he continues to try and distract the American people by pointing fingers away from himself.
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