Reports surfaced that President Donald Trump was trying to influence FBI Director James Comey into dropping the investigation of Michael Flynn, the former National Security Adviser, and his ties with Russia. These recent developments have driven administrators and law specialists to address whether Trump was obstructing justice, a severe criminal and impeachable offense. The Comey memo, first reported by the New York Times, contained a report of Trump stating to Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The White House quickly denied the report.
Investigation of Michael Flynn
The FBI is exploring Flynn’s contacts with Sergey Kislyak, Russia’s envoy to the US. In February, Michael Flynn, resigned after misleading the President and the administration about his prior contacts with Kislyak. These communications were extensive and included discussions of U.S. sanctions against Russia. It was also revealed in March, that Flynn took over $500,000, working as a foreign agent last year, representing the interests of the Turkish government in a dispute with the United States. This surprising admission came just four months after the election. All for an administration running on a platform of “America First”.
On January 24th, only two days after Flynn was sworn in as National Security Advisor, the FBI interviewed Flynn about his discussions with Kislyak. Flynn denied discussing Russian sanctions in his December calls with Kislyak, contradicting transcripts.
Firing of James Comey
On May 9th, Trump fired Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading criminal investigation into whether Trump’s team colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 election. Trump explained the firing by citing Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server back in July, 10 months earlier. Based on the timing of his firing, all reasoning points to the Russian investigation and Comey’s refusal to close the investigation. Robert Deitz, a former top lawyer at the CIA and National Security Agency, told Business Insider, “the obvious inference seems to be that Trump is upset about the investigation.”
The reaction to Comey’s firing in Washington was swift and furious. Even Republican’s took to Twitter to explain their frustration. “I’ve spent the last several hours trying to find an acceptable rationale for the timing of Comey’s firing,” Senator Jeff Flake, Republican of Arizona, “I just can’t do it.”
The real question is, could Donald Trump be impeached?
No president has ever been removed from office via impeachment in the United States. Even Richard Nixon resigned before his impeachment process concluded.
The Constitution provides that, “The president, vice president and all civil officers of the United States, shall be removed from office on impeachment for, and conviction of, treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”
The biggest problem for Trump right now is Comey. By firing him, he may have constituted obstruction of justice. Obstruction of justice involves any conduct in which a person willfully interferes with the administration of justice.
It wouldn’t be easy to charge Trump with obstructing justice based on the Comey memo alone, said Robert Deitz, a previous senior counselor to the Director of the CIA and general counsel at the NSA. This is because it’s unclear whether Trump was requesting Comey to end the FBI’s investigation into Flynn or asking Comey if he would consider dropping the case on the grounds that Flynn was “a good guy”
In any case, obstruction of justice is not something a president wants on their record. It’s one of the two charges the House used to impeach Clinton and one of the three charges recommended against Nixon.
Worse Is Yet To Come
Four months into his presidency, and we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg. Former FBI Director, Robert Mueller, was appointed as special counsel on May 17 to oversee the federal investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 election. If, as most experts believe, Trump’s goal in firing Comey was to end the investigation into his connections with Russia, then instead his worst fears are coming into fruition. As special counsel, Mueller, is now charged with conducting a full and thorough investigation into Russia’s attempt to interfere with the 2016 election. Mueller also cannot be fired by the president directly. Only the acting Attorney General may remove Mueller from the counsel.
Remember Monica Lewinsky? Special counsels are know for dragging out all the dirt just as they uncovered President Bill Clinton’s lying about Monica Lewinsky which eventually lead to Clinton’s impeachment. We can only hope that the special counsel doesn’t prove parts of the Russian dossier to be true.