Former FBI Director James Comey confirmed that Donald Trump was not personally under FBI investigation at the time Comey told him he wasn’t under investigation. But Comey performed verbal gymnastics to avoid saying that Trump isn’t currently under investigation. More importantly, Comey said something about Special Counsel Robert Mueller that all but gave away that Mueller is in fact investigating Trump personally.
When Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia asked Comey today whether he believes Donald Trump’s actions rose to the level of obstruction of justice, Comey said that it’s not his place to say. But then he added: “That’s a conclusion I’m sure the Special Counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that’s an offense.” When Manchin repeated his question more directly, Comey said: “I don’t know, that’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.”
Keep in mind that Comey met with Mueller before his testimony, and that the two men have long been closely aligned. Comey is savvy enough to know what not to say, in terms of tainting Mueller’s probe. And yet Comey said he’s sure that Mueller’s going to be looking at the obstruction angle with Trump. That means Mueller is already looking into it, and Comey knows it, or else Comey wouldn’t have made that kind of prediction.
It’s important to note that the true target of a multi-layer investigation is almost never initially under investigation. During the Watergate probe, Richard Nixon himself wasn’t officially under investigation until after investigators had already had their way with the underlings whose testimony and evidence could be used to build a case against him. So, as Comey stressed today, Trump wasn’t officially under investigation at the time Trump asked him about it. But Trump was always going to be the eventual target of the Russia investigation, and if you read between the lines of Comey’s words today, that’s now already the case.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report