Donald Trump seemed to think that he could make his Russia scandal go away by firing FBI Director James Comey. But now it turns out that months beforehand, Trump tried to make his Russia scandal go away by directly asking Comey to make it go away. We now know this because Comey wrote a memo about the exchange with Trump, and now the contents of that memo have just become public, acting as a smoking gun nailing Trump for obstruction of justice.
Comey’s memo is now being quoted by the New York Times, after one of Comey’s associates shared its contents with the newspaper (link). It’s not clear if Comey gave the memo to an associate to share with a reporter, or if the associate in question is acting without Comey’s involvement. But either way, it makes clear that Trump tried to convince Comey to drop the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and that he did so in exact words.
According to Comey’s memo, Trump uses phrases like “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go,” which represent clear cut obstruction of justice because Flynn was a Trump associate who was being investigated for his actions while he was helping to run Trump’s campaign and transition team. In legal terms, Comey’s memo is seen as valid evidence of Trump’s words, not only because he documented it at the time, but because he told several others inside and outside the FBI about it at the time.
This precludes the possibility that Comey could have crafted the memo after his firing, as some attempt at revenge, and instead establishes that Comey documented Trump’s words back when he still had his job and had no expectation of losing it. The Republican Congress must now decide whether to impeach Trump for this matter. But in legal terms, this is a smoking gun nailing Trump for obstruction of justice. When Richard Nixon resigned, it was because the House was drafting articles of impeachment that were headlined not with Watergate crimes, but with obstruction of the Watergate investigation.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report