Last Friday Donald Trump’s Tweet alleged secretly recorded “tapes” of his conversations with fired FBI Director James Comey.
Tuesday night we learned that James Comey can say “I’ll see your alleged tape recordings, and raise you the contemporaneous memorandums of conversations that I maintain to cover my ass. And I want to testify in both public and private hearings before Congress.”
If Trump was bluffing about his “tapes,” now’s the time for him to fold. He’s about to lose this hand “bigly.”
The New York Times reported, Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation:
President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.
“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.
This is the basis for an obstruction of justice charge.
Mr. Comey created similar memos — including some that are classified — about every phone call and meeting he had with the president, the two people said. It is unclear whether Mr. Comey told the Justice Department about the conversation or his memos.
The documentation of Mr. Trump’s request is the clearest evidence that the president has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and F.B.I. investigation into links between Mr. Trump’s associates and Russia. Late Tuesday, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded that the F.B.I. turn over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of discussions between Mr. Trump and Mr. Comey.
Note: The Senate Judiciary Committee also sent letters asking White House Counsel Don McGahn for all records “memorializing interactions with Mr. Comey relating to the FBI’s investigation of alleged ties between President Trump’s associates and Russia, or the Clinton email investigation, including all audio recordings, transcripts, notes, summaries, or memoranda.” Senate ramps up investigations, demands Comey memos and Trump tapes. The Senate Intelligence Committee also asked for the Comey memos, and asked Comey to come testify in both public and private hearings, after he’d declined their earlier request for him to testify only in private.
Such documents, Mr. Chaffetz wrote, would “raise questions as to whether the president attempted to influence or impede” the F.B.I.
In other words, Witness Intimidation, Obstruction of Justice, and Impeachment, or “abuse of power” for general shorthand.
Mr. Comey wrote the memo detailing his conversation with the president immediately after the meeting, which took place the day after Mr. Flynn resigned, according to two people who read the memo. It was part of a paper trail Mr. Comey created documenting what he perceived as the president’s improper efforts to influence a continuing investigation. An F.B.I. agent’s contemporaneous notes are widely held up in court as credible evidence of conversations.
Mr. Comey shared the existence of the memo with senior F.B.I. officials and close associates. The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of it to a Times reporter.
“I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey, according to the memo. “He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
Mr. Trump told Mr. Comey that Mr. Flynn had done nothing wrong, according to the memo.
Mr. Comey did not say anything to Mr. Trump about curtailing the investigation, replying only: “I agree he is a good guy.”
In a statement, the White House denied the version of events in the memo.
“While the president has repeatedly expressed his view that General Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the president has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn,” the statement said. “The president has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.”
Comey’s contemporaneous memorndums of conversations and any Trump “tapes” that may exist will put this denial to the test. It may serve as the basis for a count of obstruction of justice in an impeachment proceeding.
Mr. Chaffetz’s letter, sent to the acting F.B.I. director, Andrew G. McCabe, set a May 24 deadline for the internal documents to be delivered to the House committee. The congressman, a Republican, was criticized in recent months for showing little of the appetite he demonstrated in pursuing Hillary Clinton to pursue investigations into Mr. Trump’s associates.
Chaffetz held out the potential for a subpoena on Tuesday, a notably aggressive move as most Republicans have tried to stay out of the fray.
The Washington Post adds, “Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight Committee, said he was prepared to use a subpoena if necessary to get a copy of the Comey memo that has been described. “I need to see it sooner rather than later. I have my subpoena pen ready,’’ he tweeted.”
More details of the fateful meeting:
Mr. Comey had been in the Oval Office that day with other senior national security officials for a terrorism threat briefing. When the meeting ended, Mr. Trump told those present — including Mr. Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions — to leave the room except for Mr. Comey.
This eliminates the Sergeant Schultz defense (“I know nothing!“) for Pence and Sessions. They are now both implicated and placed at the scene of the crime.
Alone in the Oval Office, Mr. Trump began the discussion by condemning leaks to the news media, saying that Mr. Comey should consider putting reporters in prison for publishing classified information, according to one of Mr. Comey’s associates.
Because the very first thing every autocratic dictator does is jail the critical media so that he can control the flow of information the public receives. This will only inspire journalists to pursue Trump with greater vigor. [Update: News organizations expressed outrage Wednesday over a report that President Trump asked the former F.B.I. director to consider imprisoning journalists who published classified government information. Trump’s Urging That Comey Jail Reporters Denounced as an ‘Act of Intimidation’.]
Mr. Trump then turned the discussion to Mr. Flynn.
After writing up a memo that outlined the meeting, Mr. Comey shared it with senior F.B.I. officials. Mr. Comey and his aides perceived Mr. Trump’s comments as an effort to influence the investigation, but they decided that they would try to keep the conversation secret — even from the F.B.I. agents working on the Russia investigation — so the details of the conversation would not affect the investigation.
Mr. Comey was known among his closest advisers to document conversations that he believed would later be called into question, according to two former confidants, who said Mr. Comey was uncomfortable at times with his relationship with Mr. Trump.
The Washington Post adds:
The notes taken by Comey appear to contradict testimony offered last week by his temporary successor, acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.
“There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date,’’ McCabe said last week in response to a question posed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “Simply put, sir, you cannot stop the men and women of the FBI from doing the right thing, protecting the American people and upholding the Constitution.’’
From the question and answer, it is unclear if McCabe was speaking only about Comey’s firing not interfering with the Russia investigations, or whether he was saying that there was no effort to impede in any Trump-related matter.
Law enforcement officials declined to explain the apparent contradiction between Comey’s notes and McCabe’s testimony.
Former FBI director James B. Comey’s allegation that President Trump pressed him to shut down the bureau’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn provides the strongest support yet for a criminal obstruction-of-justice case against Trump, legal analysts say, though even more evidence would probably be required to warrant action. Legal analysts: Trump might have obstructed justice, if Comey’s allegation is true:
Comey wrote in a memo that Trump asked him to walk away from the Flynn probe, declaring that Flynn was a good man and asserting to his FBI director, “I hope you can let this go.”
That, legal analysts say, provides a plausible case that the president obstructed justice. The FBI is investigating Flynn’s dealings, as well as possible coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin to influence the 2016 presidential election.
“There’s definitely a case to be made for obstruction,” said Barak Cohen, a former federal prosecutor who now does white-collar defense work at the Perkins Coie law firm. “But on the other hand you have to realize that — as with any other sort of criminal law — intent is key, and intent here can be difficult to prove.”
On Tuesday, all 33 Democrats on the House Judiciary and Oversight and Government Reform committees sent a letter to their Republican counterparts asking to launch an investigation into whether Trump and those in his administration were “engaged in an ongoing conspiracy to obstruct” the various probes by the Justice Department, FBI and Congress.
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The laws governing obstruction of justice require prosecutors to show a person “corruptly” tried to influence a probe — meaning investigators have to find some evidence of what a person was thinking when taking a particular action.
In this case, analysts said, that would mean analyzing the specific details of Trump and Comey’s conversation, assessing what else was happening at the time and possibly talking to Trump associates who had talked with the president about what he wanted to do.
“It depends on what he said and how he said it,” said Edward B. MacMahon Jr., another criminal defense lawyer. “I call all the time and ask prosecutors to stop investigations. It just depends on how it’s done.”
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The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel has opined in the past that the president cannot be indicted or prosecuted at all, “because it would impermissibly interfere with the President’s ability to carry out his constitutionally assigned functions and thus would be inconsistent with the constitutional structure.”
Trump could be impeached, though, for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” In the articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon — which were never taken up by the full House of Representatives — legislators cited obstruction of justice.
If and when the parties have fully complied with the congressional committees’ requests for documentation and James Comey is set to testify before Congress, this matter is going to come to a head quickly.
It will be a pop the popcorn moment.