Shortly after the New York Times dropped an explosive report alleging President Trump called then-Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to put a Trump ally in charge of the Southern District of New York’s case against former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, Fox News senior judicial analyst Judge Andrew Napolitano said this request amounted to “an attempt to obstruct justice.”
According to the Times, Trump attempted to exert pressure on his newly installed attorney general late last year. With U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman having already recused himself from the Cohen investigation due to a conflict of interest, Trump reportedly asked Whitaker to put Berman in charge of the probe. Trump “soon soured” on Whitaker for not being able to make the move happen, per the Times.
Speaking with Fox News anchor Shepard Smith on Tuesday, Napolitano noted that Whitaker himself could be in trouble if the story is accurate, seeing as Whitaker previously testified to Congress that the president had never pressured him on any of the multiple Trump-related investigations.
“There’s two potential crimes here for Matt Whitaker,” the judge stated. “One is actual perjury, lying to the Congress. The other is misleading. Remember, you can be truthful but still misleading.”
The judge, whom The Daily Beast has described as Fox’s “lonely truth-teller” on all things Trump, further explained that while things may not look good for Whitaker, they look really bad for the president.
Napolitano said the president’s reported phone call to Whitaker demonstrates “corrupt intent.”
“That is an effort to use the levers of power of the government for a corrupt purpose to deflect an investigation into himself or his allies,” he pointed out, adding that the SDNY has two ongoing Trump investigation and the Times reported that Trump wanted his ally Berman to oversee both.
Smith, meanwhile, wanted to know if this rose to the level of obstruction of justice.
“Yes. Well, attempted obstruction,” Napolitano replied. “It would only be obstruction if it succeeded. If you tried to interfere with a criminal prosecution that may knock at your own door by putting your ally in there that is clearly an attempt to obstruct justice.”
The two Fox News colleagues ended their discussion by heaping praise upon the Times reporters behind the story, with Napolitano calling the report “dynamite” and “well-documented.”