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EDITORIAL: Democrats have apparently evolved on obstruction

Bill and Hillary Clinton brought their traveling roadshow to Las Vegas on Sunday, speaking to a crowd of supporters at the Park MGM on the last leg of their 10-city tour dubbed “An Evening with the Clintons.”

The Clintons weighed in on a variety of subjects, including the ongoing spectacle in Washington involving President Donald Trump, the attorney general, Congress and the Mueller report. “This president obstructed justice,” Hillary told the crowd. “He tried to interfere with that investigation.”

Self-awareness was never a strong suit for Bill and Hillary, but the brazen shamelessness on full display with that statement should floor even the most hardened cynic. Mrs. Clinton, after all, is highly familiar with obstruction of justice, having witnessed her husband’s illegal behavior more than two decades ago.

The Clinton history lesson is appropriate given the faux indignation among House Democrats over special counsel Robert Mueller’s findings and Attorney General William Barr’s summary of the probe. Mr. Mueller determined there was no evidence the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians, and he declined to recommend charges against Mr. Trump for obstruction, while noting the investigation did not “exonerate” him of the charge.

The latter has led Democrats to brandish the pitchforks and torches. But although Mr. Mueller cited examples of questionable presidential conduct, the legal issue of obstruction is far murkier than many of the president’s critics acknowledge. For instance, some of the behavior cited as potential obstruction involved actions that the president is constitutionally empowered to execute.

Mr. Clinton had no such defense when his presidency became ensnared in the legal machinery of Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr’s investigation. He not only lied to a grand jury during the probe, he asked others to lie for him. These facts are not in dispute. Mr. Clinton committed perjury and obstruction of justice and was impeached, although he was acquitted in the Senate and finished his second term.

Forty-three Democrats currently serving in the House were also members of the lower chamber during the 1998 proceedings against Mr. Clinton. They include Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi and two highly vocal opponents of Mr. Trump, Reps. Jerry Nadler and Maxine Waters. None felt that Mr. Clinton’s perjury or obstruction was an impeachable offense.

Likewise in the U.S. Senate. Seven current Democratic senators sat as jurors during Bill Clinton’s 1999 trial. Not one voted to convict.

Even if one argues Mr. Trump obstructed Mr. Mueller’s team during a probe that found no underlying offense, it would seem, for Democrats, that the issue of whether obstruction is impeachable has been settled. Perhaps Bill and Hillary could expand on that topic during their next promotional tour.

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