Why beat around the bush? Let’s cut to the chase. Any more hearings of the House or Senate Intelligence Committee are a waste of time. James Comey’s already said it all.
It makes you wonder: Who’s the genius who told Donald Trump it was a good idea to fire Comey? That was the dumbest presidential move since Nixon fired Archibald Cox, with equally bad results: one whole month of negative publicity; the appointment of a special prosecutor; and Comey’s jaw-dropping testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee this week – which, now that Comey’s a free man, Trump could do nothing to prevent.
In a brilliant move, knowing that Trump might use Twitter to misrepresent his testimony, Comey launched a preemptive strike, in effect out-Trumping Trump, by releasing his opening statement 24 hours ahead of the Senate hearing. Read it. It’s only seven pages long. But it’s irrefutable and brutal, detailing – as memorialized in notes Comey made after each meeting with Trump – everything he did to derail or deride the Russian investigation.
On Jan. 27, over dinner in the Green Room, the president asked Comey if he wanted to stay on the job and made it clear what he expected in return: “I need loyalty. I expect loyalty.” When Comey demurred, promising honesty, but not loyalty, Trump insisted: “That’s what I want, honest loyalty.” Loyalty to him, in other words, not the law.
On Feb. 14, in a meeting in the Oval Office, the president pressured Comey to drop his investigation of Michael Flynn. “He is a good guy and has been through a lot,” Trump said of Flynn, whom he had fired just one day earlier. “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Trump persisted. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” As Comey testified, he took that as a directive from the president of the United States to end the investigation. How could he not?
On March 30, the president called Comey to ask what he could do to “lift the cloud” of the Russian investigation and to complain about Comey’s testimony the previous week to the Senate Intelligence Committee, in which he revealed the ongoing FBI probe into possible collusion between the Trump team and Russian officials to undermine the 2016 presidential election.
On April 11, the president called Comey yet again to ask him to “get out” word that Trump himself was not subject of the investigation. As Comey testified, this was the third time he gave the president that assurance, but – an important but! – only because Trump was not under investigation at that time.
Comey explained he was reluctant to do what Trump asked – announce publicly that Trump was not a target – because, the investigation, just getting underway, might very well lead to Trump, which “would create a duty to correct.”
In three years as director of the FBI under President Obama, Comey only spoke to the president twice. In four months, he had nine one-on-one conversations with President Trump – three in person, six on the phone – none of which he initiated, but the nature of which, Comey believed, violated the tradition of independence from the White House normally accorded the FBI.
Those conversations with Trump made Comey so uncomfortable that he a) told the attorney general he never wanted to be alone with the president again; and b) he wrote a detailed memo about each exchange, starting with their very first meeting at Trump Tower on Jan. 6. Why? “Because,” Comey told senators, “I felt he might lie about the nature of our meeting.”
And that’s not all. As reported by the Washington Post, before firing Comey, Trump also asked Dan Coats, director of National Intelligence, to encourage Comey to drop the Russia investigation – which Coats, in his own testimony, refused to confirm or deny.
Bottom line: On multiple occasions, in many ways, Donald Trump tried to shut down a criminal investigation of members of his own administration, and perhaps himself. That was clearly his intent. And, by any definition, that is clearly obstruction of justice. Period.
In fact, with Comey’s testimony, the entire focus of the investigation has shifted from whether the Trump team colluded with Russians to whether the president obstructed justice. That leaves no doubt what should happen next.
Based on Comey’s opening statement alone, they might as well shut down the House and Senate Intelligence Committees – and start impeachment hearings right away.