Even before James Comeyś testimony on June 8, 2017, Philip Lacovara, a former Watergate prosecutor, set forth a cogent argument that, based solely on the facts related in Comey’s writen statement released the day before, there was an obstruction of justice case against President Donald Trump. His arguments merit careful consideration.
Philip Allen Lacovara, “I helped prosecute Watergate. Comey’s statement is sufficient evidence for an obstruction of justice case,” Washington Post, June 7, 2017.
Comey proved what Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers carefully avoided admitting in their testimony on Wednesday — that the president had specifically attempted to shut off at least a major piece of what Trump calls the “Russia thing,” the investigation into the misleading statements by fired national security adviser Michael Flynn concerning his role in dealings with the Russians. This kind of presidential intervention in a pending criminal investigation has not been seen, to my knowledge, since the days of Richard Nixon and Watergate.
Comey’s statement meticulously detailed a series of interventions by Trump soliciting his assistance in getting the criminal probe dropped. These details are red meat for a prosecutor. Presumably, the team of experienced criminal prosecutors that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has assembled will be following up on this crucial testimony, which rests on contemporaneous memorandums that Comey was sufficiently alarmed to prepare immediately after receiving the president’s requests.
The president dropped the other shoe on May 9, summarily firing Comey. The White House initially blamed this action on Comey’s actions during the 2016 campaign, but within the week Trump admitted that the cover story was a sham. He brazenly stated that he fired Comey in order to bring the “Russia thing” to a close, and he bragged to senior Russian officials in a private Oval Office meeting that this is what he thought that he had accomplished by sacking Comey.
Comey’s statement lays out a case against the president that consists of a tidy pattern, beginning with the demand for loyalty, the threat to terminate Comey’s job, the repeated requests to turn off the investigation into Flynn and the final infliction of career punishment for failing to succumb to the president’s requests, all followed by the president’s own concession about his motive. Any experienced prosecutor would see these facts as establishing a prima facie case of obstruction of justice.
URGENCY: The need for Robert Mueller to move quickly to indict Michael Flynn and other Trump associates
There is a need on the part of Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel, to move quickly to bring charges against at least some of the individuals who appear to have clearly committed felonies, whether by failing to register as an agent of a foreign power, before they acted as one, violated the Logan Act by interfering with the foreign policy of the United States before they assumed office, or lied to the FBI.
Michael Flynn has reportedly committed all three violations, whereas Paul Manafort failed to register as a foreign agent until days ago. Efforts at post hoc registration months or years after the fact are not legally effective. The felony has already been committed.
Robert Mueller needs to act quickly, in view of the fact that President Trump continues to try to obstruct justice by threatening and attacking witnesses (e.g., Comey) and even prosecutors (Mueller and his team).
Trump is fully capable of firing Mueller when the investigation gets too hot. Should he do so, so long as a majority in the House and the Senate support him — in what is becoming in essence an all-out struggle for control of the government — Trump and Attorney General Sessions could potentially operate with no further checks on their exercise of power.
Spirit of Publius