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Opinion Does Mueller have a case against Trump? Eric Holder thinks so — with a caveat.

Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder comments on the debate over whether a sitting president can be indicted. (Video: Washington Post Live)

President Trump is fixated on loyalty, particularly from the attorney general. He famously complained that Attorney General Jeff Sessions doesn’t protect him the way, Trump believed, Holder did former president Barack Obama. So, when I asked Holder if Trump didn’t have a point, he set the record straight.

“I didn’t have to protect Barack Obama, okay?” said Holder to applause from the audience during a live-event recording of the latest episode of “Cape Up” on Feb. 27 at The Post. “His campaign wasn’t colluding with the Russians. We didn’t have to worry about obstruction of justice.”


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Asked to help make sense of the legal moves of late by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, Holder said there are three threads. “One, conspiracy, not collusion. There is no such thing as collusion, so a question of conspiracy,” he said. “There’s another one with regard to obstruction, and then I think one that is necessary to understand everything — what I would call the context line that deals with the Trump Organization’s interactions with Russians before he was president.”

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But does the former attorney general think Mueller actually has a case of obstruction against the president? “If you look at the Lester Holt interview. If you look at the requests that he made to the intelligence heads to talk to [former FBI director James B.] Comey about how he should deal with certain witnesses. If you look at what happened on the airplane with the formulation of that statement. I think you’ve probably got a technical case,” Holder said before delivering a big cautionary caveat. “I’m not at all certain that at this point you have a case that you would want to bring to court, and my guess is that Bob Mueller is in the process of putting together as strong a case as he possibly can.”

Hours before the sit-down with Holder, Trump tweeted — again — that the Mueller probe was a “WITCH HUNT!” But Holder, like most of America, was nonplussed. “You can no longer say that this is a witch hunt or that this doesn’t exist,” he said. “You’ve got specific people, you’ve got three other entities, you’ve got real facts, dates, times. So we know that it happened.”

Holder also said that it is “hard for me to imagine” that Rod Rosenstein would fire Mueller at Trump’s behest. And if Trump succeeded in getting rid of Mueller, Holder said the American people need to rise up. “Our voices need to be heard if that occurs,” he said, “along the lines of the Women’s March the day after the inauguration….maybe about 10 times the size of that so that people in Congress understand that this is something that the American people have deemed unacceptable and require them to act.”

Understanding Eric Holder’s tearful resignation.

Listen to the podcast to hear why Holder is actually thinking of running for president. “I think I’ve got the guts to potentially do the things that I think the next president would have to do,” Holder told me. Also find out why he said of Trump, “I’m from Queens, he’s from Queens, and that’s about where the similarities end”; why he’s “going to go to Wisconsin in March to campaign for an open Supreme Court seat there”; and his tough assessment of Trump’s inaction against Russian interference in the 2016 election.

“This is a dereliction of duty,” Holder said to applause. “This is Roosevelt after Pearl Harbor and saying, ‘Well, okay. Take it easy. We got this,’ and not doing anything. It’s George W. Bush after 9/11 doing nothing.”

“Cape Up” is Jonathan’s weekly podcast talking to key figures behind the news and our culture. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher and anywhere else you listen to podcasts.