The other shoes start falling
Some highlights ...
The nation’s top intelligence official told associates in March that President Trump asked him if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe, according to officials.
On March 22, less than a week after being confirmed by the Senate, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats attended a briefing at the White House together with officials from several government agencies. As the briefing was wrapping up, Trump asked everyone to leave the room except for Coats and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
The president then started complaining about the FBI investigation and Comey’s handling of it, said officials familiar with the account Coats gave to associates. Two days earlier, Comey had confirmed in a congressional hearing that the bureau was probing whether Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russia during the 2016 race.
We now have a situation in which multiple, highly respected GOP officials — Coats, Pompeo and perhaps Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein — will have a remarkably consistent story showing a frantic and persistent president pestering them to derail an ongoing FBI investigation.
In the case of President Richard Nixon, a recording of a single directive for the CIA to squash the FBI investigation of the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters was dubbed a smoking gun.
Ethics guru Norman Eisen says that in an obstruction prosecution, the key issue would be whether Trump and others were “acting for an improper purpose, such as to evade personal embarrassment or legal liability for Trump, for people connected to him, and possibly even for Russian wrongdoers.” He notes: “It’s already clear from the president’s own words that he was acting to impair the investigation. The key question is whether he was doing so with a wrongful purpose, and if so, what that was.”
However, all of this goes to whether a criminal prosecution would hold up. The realworry for Trump is impeachment. The actions listed above certainly could qualify as abuse of power and obstruction for impeachment purposes. Impeachment is a political decision by Congress.
We may have the rare case in which intent in alleged obstruction may be easier than usual to demonstrate because the alleged perpetrator made so many comments and talked to so many people about his obsession with dumping Comey. At that point, the GOP would need to decide whether to move forward to remove him — or risk losing control of both houses and letting Democrats do it in 2018.