Comey Sketched Obstruction Case Against Trump

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Fired FBI director James Comey sketched a case that President Trump obstructed justice by directing him to drop the bureau’s investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn, reports USA Today. Comey described the president’s request as “stunning,” but maintained that “it’s not for me to say” whether Trump had broken the law. That is an issue for special counsel Robert Mueller, he said. Still, he walked lawmakers through a series of events that closely track basic elements of a federal obstruction of justice charge. On Feb. 14, Comey recalled Trump telling him that Flynn was “a good guy,” and “I hope you can let this go.” Comey said he took that as an order, adding, “I didn’t obey that, but that’s the way I took it.”

Federal law prohibits people from “corruptly” attempting to influence or interfere with law enforcement proceedings. Such prosecutions are both rare — Justice Department records list 56 cases since 2013 — and difficult. The government must prove that someone sought to influence the case and that their reasons for doing so were improper. Trump’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, said Trump had “never sought to impede” the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Trump has said that he did not ask Comey to end the FBI’s investigation of Flynn. Of greatest significance, former prosecutors said, was the president’s request that his aides leave the Oval Office before he spoke to Comey about Flynn. “The inference one would draw is that Trump knew what he was about to say was inappropriate,” said Julie O’Sullivan, a Georgetown University law professor and former federal prosecutor who served under Comey. “It shows he knew that it would not be a good thing for him to say in front of a room full of people.” She added, “Obstruction is what gets them every time. That’s one lesson that everybody in Washington pretty much knows.”

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