Matt Lauer: Trump Guilty of ‘Emotional Definition’ of Obstruction of Justice?

Matt Lauer is not a legal scholar, but apparently the morning show host likes to play one on TV.  On Wednesday’s NBC Today, while lamenting reports that former FBI Director James Comey would not accuse President Trump of obstruction of justice during his congressional testimony on Thursday, Lauer still tried find a crime by absurdly claiming that Trump’s actions surrounding the Russia investigation may have met the “emotional definition” of obstruction.

Talking to Meet the Press moderator Chuck Todd, a disappointed Lauer noted that Comey “will stop short of accusing the President of trying to obstruct justice.” However, the anchor then threw the law out the window and decided to just rely on his feelings that Trump did some wrong: “Might we fall into a situation here, Chuck, where we’re talking about the legal definition of obstruction versus the emotional definition of obstruction?”

Rather than call-out the ridiculous premise, Todd happily went along with it: “Well, yes. It’s why obstruction of justice charges are so hard to make – to make hold on this point. But the fact is, all of the circumstantial evidence here says the President is trying to do everything he could to stop this investigation for one reason or the other.” The Sunday show host admitted that, “We don’t have the motivation behind it just yet,” but asserted that the President “asked people to step in multiple times.”

Only briefly did Todd allude to tough questions that Comey would have to ask during his upcoming appearance before the Senate Intelligence Committee: “Yes, James Comey’s going to have to explain why, if he was so concerned to write a memo, that he didn’t take it to his superior.” At no point in the discussion did any of the supposed “journalists” mention the fact that Comey testified to Congress on May 3 that political pressure on the FBI to stop the Russia investigation had “not happened in my experience.”

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Instead, Todd tried to excuse Comey’s actions: “But I’m sorry, we’re in a crisis here, I think, as a country with our institutions. If the reasoning is what the Director of the FBI has supposedly said, that he didn’t know who to trust at the Justice Department...”

He warned: “We’re not in a very good place. And I think, big-picture-wise, folks on Capitol Hill need to – this is another gut-check moment for them....And the executive branch is not functioning right now.”

At the top of the segment, co-host Savannah Guthrie asked about a Washington Post report that the President asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to pressure Comey to drop the investigation – a charge which Coats has denied. Todd proclaimed: “Well, I think it’s pretty clear this – the Russia investigation’s consumed the President on every level....[Coats] testifies today, and that’s going to be a big part of this conversation as well. And he’s going to help add to this obvious nature where the President is just consumed.”

The liberal media have certainly been “consumed” by the story, even at the expense of actual facts.

Here is a full transcript of the June 7 segment:

7:07 AM ET

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Let’s bring in Chuck Todd, moderator of Meet the Press. Chuck, good morning to you.

CHUCK TODD: Good morning.

GUTHRIE: So we have another report of Trump allegedly saying to an official in the government, in this case the Director of National Intelligence, to lay off the Russia investigation. Something that they – the Director doesn’t exactly acknowledge happened. He said he never felt pressured to do that. What does it all add up to when you add in the pressure and the tension with the Attorney General?

TODD: Well, I think it’s pretty clear this – the Russia investigation’s consumed the President on every level. Look, the report about the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, it was more than just that. He wanted him to go to Comey and say lay off of Mike Flynn and the Russia investigation. And the fact is, it’s -my – in talking to people very close and very supportive of Dan Coats, they’re – he’s been concerned all along by the atmosphere of the relationship between his interactions with the White House.

Now he testifies today. You know, there’s sort of two days of these hearings. Comey’s tomorrow, that’s the big one. But he testifies today, and that’s going to be a big part of this conversation as well. And he’s going to help add to this obvious nature where the President is just consumed.

MATT LAUER: We don’t know what James Comey’s going to say until the words come out of his mouth, but there are reports that he will stop short of accusing the President of trying to obstruct justice. Might we fall into a situation here, Chuck, where we’re talking about the legal definition of obstruction versus the emotional definition of obstruction?

TODD: Well, yes. It’s why obstruction of justice charges are so hard to make – to make hold on this point. But the fact is, all of the circumstantial evidence here says the President is trying to do everything he could to stop this investigation for one reason or the other. We don’t have the motivation behind it just yet. And he’s asked people to step in multiple times.

Yes, James Comey’s going to have to explain why, if he was so concerned to write a memo, that he didn’t take it to his superior. In this case, either the Attorney General or the Deputy Attorney General. But I’m sorry, we’re in a crisis here, I think, as a country with our institutions. If the reasoning is what the Director of the FBI has supposedly said, that he didn’t know who to trust at the Justice Department, if we’re in a situation where the Director of the FBI can’t trust his superiors, now you have that superior offered his resignation to the President. Where are we here? We’re not in a very good place. And I think, big-picture-wise, folks on Capitol Hill need to – this is another gut-check moment for them.

GUTHRIE: I was going to say, there’s a role for Congress to play.

TODD: Yes there is.

GUTHRIE: We have three branches of government, so they’re all called –  

TODD: And the executive branch is not functioning right now.

GUTHRIE: Chuck, thank you very much.

By the way, we’re going to all be in Washington tomorrow, along with NBC’s Lester Holt, for James Comey’s testimony. The broadcast network will carry it live. We’ll get things started here on Today and then that special live coverage on these NBC stations, beginning at 10:00 Eastern Time.

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