It is always dangerous when you have someone who has not been schooled in the law offering a legal interpretation but that is exactly what will be discussed below. By no means is this essay intended to defend President Donald Trump but rather to provoke discussion about the state of mind of our President.
There have been many opinions offered about what Special Counsel Robert Mueller wants to get to the bottom of. Opinions have been offered that Mueller wants to determine if Trump had “corrupt intent” when he asked James Comey about Michael Flynn. Black’s Law Dictionary defines “corrupt intent” as follows:
This term applies to doing something with the full knowledge that it is illegal.
The words “with full knowledge that it is illegal” are at the heart of this question. Therein lies the potential problem. Intent goes to the state of mind of the accused or subject of the investigation. Determining the state of mind of someone is very difficult. Determining what someone knew, or did not know, is in many instances almost impossible.
Given President Trump’s history of bizarre statements a very strong case can be made that he not only did not know what he was doing was illegal but that he truly believed that he was acting in good faith. If that is the case, and if is a very big word in this context, then he did not act with corrupt intent. That question is one that ultimately will be decided in the Courts. It is a question that can possibly impact any number of cases and open a totally new avenue of defense for the accused.
If an individual relies on advice of competent counsel that an act is lawful and acts accordingly is that individual guilty of “corrupt intent”? Corrupt intent is a very slippery slope.
Personal opinions on this issue will be all over the board. It is not the intent of this essay to suggest that President Trump did, or did not, act with corrupt intent. The goal of this is to provoke discussion about whether Trump truly believed that he was acting in good faith, regardless of how difficult that question is to answer.
Ultimately, questions about this issue will be decided after the mid-term elections this November. Though the Courts are designed to be above partisan politics it is almost a certainty that politics will play a key role in the ultimate decision.