Comey Memo Shakes GOP

Trump could face obstruction of justice case
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 17, 2017 4:41 AM CDT
Updated May 17, 2017 6:21 AM CDT
Trump Accused of Obstructing Justice
President Trump listens as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, May 16, 2017.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Trump is no stranger to scandal, but reports that he asked former FBI director James Comey to halt the investigation of Michael Flynn may have taken things to the next level. The report may have been the last straw for congressional Republicans, who appeared to be shifting against Trump on Tuesday night, Politico reports. House Oversight Committee Rep. Jason Chaffetz says he has asked the FBI for Comey's memos on the Trump request and other interactions with the president and he is ready to issue subpoenas if necessary. Some legal analysts say there could now be an obstruction of justice case against Trump, though it could be tough to prove. The latest:

  • Obstruction of justice. The New York Times describes obstruction of justice as a "murky" charge, the exact definition of which was being hotly debated on Capitol Hill Tuesday night. Experts say it could certainly cover asking the FBI director to drop its investigation and then firing him. Any criminal case would probably have to prove that Trump had "corrupt intentions," though if Trump is tried, it will be by Congress, not the courts. "If this were anyone other than the president, it is classic, vanilla obstruction," former federal prosecutor Jeff Cramer tells Politico.

  • The showdown. It now appears certain that a "theatrical showdown" between Trump and Comey looms, with Americans having to decide whose word they trust more, CNN reports. Comey is expected to be called to testify before Congress about the Feb. 14 meeting with Trump.
  • Reasons for Trump to worry. The Times' sources say Comey kept detailed memos about his meetings with Trump, which "should strike fear into the White House," according to the Washington Post. The notes may describe other times Trump allegedly crossed the line—and courts in previous cases have considered memos from FBI directors to be credible evidence.
  • "Reasonable objections." The National Review notes that while there is "no good outcome" here, it is premature to say Trump is doomed to face impeachment proceedings: The allegation has not been proven, and the "reasonable objections" include Sen. Lindsey Graham's observation: "If this happened, the FBI director should have done something about it or quit."
  • GOP reaction. Republican lawmakers including House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Frank Meadows are calling for an investigation of the "disturbing" allegation. Some have signaled that their patience is wearing out. "This weekly scandal, this weekly controversy is unhealthy for the country. It’s a major distraction for the country and it’s just bad for the psyche of every American," said Florida Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, per Politico.
  • Nixon comparisons. There are many comparisons to the Watergate scandal being made. Vox notes that what ended Richard Nixon's presidency wasn't the Watergate break-in itself—his involvement was never proven—but his attempt to force the FBI to abandon its investigation.
  • Prison for the press. CNBC notes that amid the Flynn uproar, another allegation has been overlooked: Trump also allegedly asked Comey to consider imprisoning members of the press for publishing classified allegations that had been leaked.
(More President Trump stories.)

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