While special counsel Robert Mueller is still investigating President Donald Trump’s decision to fire former FBI Director James Comey, three legal experts think they already have enough evidence to charge the president with obstruction of justice, which was a key charge in the impeachment case against former President Richard Nixon.
In a new paper published by the Brookings Institute, authors Norm Eisen, Barry Berke and Noah Bookbinder make a detailed case that Trump did indeed fire Comey with the intention of thwarting the investigation into Russia’s interference with the 2016 presidential election.
Specifically, they note that Trump’s own public statements might give prosecutors all the ammunition they need to prove the president had a corrupt intention in his decision to fire Comey, whose bureau was taking a lead role in the Russia investigation.
“President Trump’s behavior is certainly suggestive of corrupt intent with respect to the Russia and Flynn investigations,” they write. “For example, President Trump has articulated multiple, shifting rationales for Comey’s firing. The first explanation for terminating Comey, as articulated by the president in a May 10 tweet and in the Rosenstein memo, was that Comey had mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email, and had lost the confidence of his subordinates. Soon thereafter, President Trump reversed course and said… that the Russia investigation was on his mind when he made the decision to fire Comey.”
The experts also cite Trump’s spurned demands of loyalty from Comey, as well as his request to drop the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, as possible motivations for firing the former FBI director that would amount to obstruction of justice.
However, even if Trump’s precise motivation for firing Comey cannot be determined, the paper notes that having mixed motives for making a decision does not preclude someone from having a corrupt intention.