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James Comey Will Testify Before Congress, And Confirm Pressure By Trump To Drop Investigation

James Comey Donald Trump

Former F.B.I. Director James Comey has agreed to testify before a Congressional committee regarding his conversations with President Trump about the Bureau’s investigation of Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 election and related matters, and will reportedly confirm the reports that Trump pressured him to drop the investigation:

Former FBI Director James Comey is planning to testify publicly before the Senate Intelligence Committee as soon as next week about his conversations with President Donald Trump about the Russia investigation, a Comey friend confirmed to POLITICO.

As of Wednesday morning, Comey’s testimony in front of the committee had not yet been scheduled, though there are talks that the appearance could happen next week, according to a second source familiar with the matter.

Trump abruptly fired Comey in May, as the FBI was apparently ramping up its investigation into Russian interference in the election and possible collusion between Russian officials and the Trump campaign. Comey publicly announced the investigation in March

(…)

The Senate testimony would mark Comey’s first public comments since his firing. The news of the timing of Comey’s testimony was first reported by CNN.

Comey’s appearance would come as Mueller’s investigation and staff is starting to take shape.

Mueller’s team is expected to include Andrew Weissmann, a longtime DOJ and FBI veteran who helped spearhead the government’s prosecutions involving Enron and multiple Mafia crime families, according to two sources who are closely tracking the unfolding investigation. The sources said Weissmann will be on detail to Mueller’s special counsel team from his current position as chief of DOJ’s criminal division fraud section.

CNN also has the news and reports that Comey will confirm the previous reports about the contents of his conversations with the President:

Fired FBI director James Comey plans to testify publicly in the Senate as early as next week to confirm bombshell accusations that President Donald Trump pressured him to end his investigation into a top Trump aide’s ties to Russia, a source close to the issue said Wednesday.

Final details are still being worked out and no official date for his testimony has been set. Comey is expected to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is investigating possible connections between the Trump campaign and Russia during last year’s presidential election.
Comey has spoken privately with Special Counsel Robert Mueller III to work out the parameters for his testimony to ensure there are no legal entanglements as a result of his public account, a source said. Comey will likely sit down with Mueller, a longtime colleague at the Justice Department, for a formal interview only after his public testimony.

When he testifies, Comey is unlikely to be willing to discuss in any detail the FBI’s investigation into the charges of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign — the centerpiece of the probe, this source said. But he appears eager to discuss his tense interactions with Trump before his firing, which have now spurred allegations that the president may have tried to obstruct the investigation. If it happens, Comey’s public testimony promises to be a dramatic chapter in the months-long controversy, and it will likely bring even more intense scrutiny to an investigation that Trump has repeatedly denounced as a “witch hunt.”

When Comey does testify, it would cap off a month of revelations that began with the President’s decision to fire Comey which came just days after Comey confirmed in testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that the Bureau was investigating both Russian interference in the election and reports about contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russian officials. In the beginning, the Administration claimed that Comey was fired because of his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, which was discussed at length in a memorandum prepared by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. That memorandum focused on the press conference Comey held last July in which he announced that the investigation would be closed without charges being brought and the letter he sent to Congress in October regarding reopening the investigation due to the apparent discovery of new emails. After a few days, though, it became apparent that Comey may have been fired due to the President’s frustration with the Russia investigation, something that Trump seemed to confirm. Trump topped off this seeming admission with what appeared to be a threat directed at Comey with ‘tapes’ of conversations between the two men, implying that he had some kind of taping system in the White House. After that, we learned that Trump asked Comey to drop the investigation into former National Security Adviser Lt. General Michael Flynn and that the White House had learned that Flynn was under investigation prior to naming him National Security Adviser. Finally, roughly two weeks after Comey was fired it was reported that Trump had told the Russian Foreign Minister and Russian Ambassador to the United States that he had fired Comey due to the Russia investigation when he met with them in the Oval Office the day after he fired Comey. Given all of this, the idea that Comey was fired for any reason other than the President’s obvious frustration with the ongoing Russia investigation is simply contrary to all of the available evidence.

While no date has been formally set for Comey’s testimony, reports are indicating that it is likely to come next Wednesday morning before the Senate Intelligence Committee, which has largely taken the lead in investigating the allegations regarding both Russian interference in the election and the allegations about contact between people close to Trump and Russian officials during the campaign and afterward. Presumably, the testimony will also include production of at least some portion of the memoranda that Comey is said to have written after each of his conversations with the President, although it’s possible that portions of those memoranda may be redacted if they contain references to classified material or matters that pertain directly to the ongoing investigation now in the hands of special counsel Robert Mueller. Assuming the testimony goes forward, it’s likely to be covered by all the major cable news outlets, and perhaps broadcast live on the broadcast networks as well. After all, it’s not every day that a former F.B.I. Director publicly accuses the President of the United States of what seems to be a fairly clear case of attempted obstruction of justice.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. michael reynolds says:

    It is obstruction of justice. And the evidence Comey will supply – the contemporaneous notes of an FBI agent – is the kind of evidence that has sent many bad guys to prison.

    A case of obstruction could be brought and made, right now. Would be brought and made if the criminal in question was not president. He would be impeached – if Republicans actually believed in the things they pretend to believe in.

    From the time of Comey’s testimony going forward, the Republican Party will be an active participant in covering up and excusing a felony.

    And that’s before we get to the money-laundering, the tax evasion, the corruption and the treason.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 41 Thumb down 3

  2. Tony W says:

    When a person of Comey’s stature is willing to go this far, it’s a big deal.

    I wish the spectacle didn’t involve the very safety and security of our nation because I’d definitely be making popcorn for this one if I was simply a disinterested party.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 0

  3. James Pearce says:

    The Senate testimony would mark Comey’s first public comments since his firing.

    Smart man. His first public comments will be on the record.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  4. Moosebreath says:

    I think Comey should testify wearing this shirt.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Apparently he has been working with Mueller to determine what can be said without jeopardizing the investigation.
    I’m afraid this will end up a nothing-burger.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  6. David M says:

    Pressuring Comey to end the investigation, before firing Comey to end the investigation is the behavior of someone who’s never faced consequences for anything, ever. Oh wait…

    This definitely seems like two impeachable cases of obstruction of justice.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. Mikey says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: I’m sure we won’t get any huge bombshells from the former Director’s testimony, but confirmation under oath of pressure by Trump to end the investigation will still ensure it’s not a nothingburger.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  8. Davebo says:

    he House intelligence committee issued subpoenas Wednesday to former national security adviser Michael Flynn and President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, as part of the probe into Russian activity during the 2016 election.

    I’m actually a little surprised by this.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  9. Mr. Bluster says:

    At this point, we need a thorough investigation of Trump
    and his administration to see if they have any ties to the
    United States.

    Stolen from commenter Dong Hang-Lo on a Yahoo thread.


    “I told Jared that I was particularly appalled by his father-in-law’s birtherism stance, which I viewed as cynical and racist.

    “He rolled his eyes and said ‘He doesn’t really believe it, Elizabeth. He just knows Republicans are stupid and they’ll buy it’”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  10. the Q says:

    “I’m afraid this will end up a nothing-burger” said Watergate security guard Frank Wills to D.C. police dispatcher.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. Argon says:

    Trump had better hope no tapes of the conversations exist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. David M says:

    @Argon:

    Trump had better hope no tapes of the conversations exist.

    Alternatively, if Trump is innocent, he had better hope the tapes exist. He’s so reliably full of crap that’s the only way he comes out of this with a believable defense.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. CSK says:

    @Mr. Bluster:

    That’s a quote from Elizabeth Spier, who used to work for Kushner, on Twitter today.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. JKB says:

    to confirm bombshell accusations that President Donald Trump pressured him to end his investigation

    That’ll be interesting given his earlier sworn testimony that he did not feel pressured by Trump.

    Not to mention the legal requirement he report such “obstruction” to the DOJ, which he didn’t.

    But by all means keep trying to establish the lies as the “facts” in the public’s minds.

    Poorly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 19

  15. An Interested Party says:

    “He rolled his eyes and said ‘He doesn’t really believe it, Elizabeth. He just knows Republicans are stupid and they’ll buy it’”

    Sadly, many of his supporters would probably say this was more fake news…it is most unfortunate that there are so many rubes in this country…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  16. Mikey says:

    @JKB: If you think Jim Comey, possessed of all the knowledge gained during his long service in DoJ as a US Attorney and deputy AG and his tenure as FBI Director, was either lying or hadn’t thoroughly considered the very specific circumstances and questions in his previous testimony, you’re very deeply mistaken indeed.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  17. Janis Gore says:

    @JKB: Yes, that’s an overstatement. IIRC Comey has said he tried to “influence” him. Not the same as pressure.

    His testimony wouldn’t in itself lead to a charge of obstruction, I don’t think.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  18. Mr. Bluster says:

    @CSK:..
    Yes. If you click on the link you should be able to see the story that the quote came from and who said it.
    I guess it is a quote from Elizabeth Spier as she quotes Number One son-in-law.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. DrDaveT says:

    @JKB:

    That’ll be interesting given his earlier sworn testimony that he did not feel pressured by Trump.

    If I threaten you, would you necessarily feel threatened? Think carefully before you answer.

    Not to mention the legal requirement he report such “obstruction” to the DOJ, which he didn’t.

    And you know this… how?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  20. Gustopher says:

    @JKB:

    That’ll be interesting given his earlier sworn testimony that he did not feel pressured by Trump.

    Perhaps Comey didn’t feel pressured because he is a big, tall man, and Trump is a small-handed little man.

    Not to mention the legal requirement he report such “obstruction” to the DOJ, which he didn’t.

    One might speculate that Comey has reassessed developments since that time, and what he previously dismissed as a governmental neophyte feeling out the borders of his authority take on a different tone when the governmental neophyte has fired him.

    “Can we end this investigation?” can mean many things of various degrees of illegality, and Comey may said “no”, and have given Trump the benefit of the doubt at the time, shrugging to himself, muttering “amateurs…” under his breath, documenting it in case it was relevant later, and then putting it aside.

    If that was the case, the underlying facts would not have changed since his earlier testimony, although his interpretation of those facts would have with the recent events.

    It would not be a happy day in the Trumpster Fire.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  21. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Janis Gore:

    IIRC Comey has said he tried to “influence” him. Not the same as pressure

    From the standpoint of Section 18, that’s a distinction in search of a difference. From what I have heard so far, this is pretty much the textbook definition of obstruction. 18 U.S. Code § 1505 is in no way unclear on this matter.

    Even attempting it is a felony …

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  22. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @JKB:

    Not to mention the legal requirement he report such “obstruction” to the DOJ, which he didn’t

    For the benefit of the rest of the class, would you mind pointing to substantiation of this claimed requirement?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  23. Janis Gore says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Wouldn’t “threatening” be key?

    Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation is being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress—

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  24. Janis Gore says:

    Ah, how is “corruptly” interpreted?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. Janis Gore says:

    @Janis Gore:

    (b) As used in section 1505, the term “corruptly” means acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including making a false or misleading statement, or withholding, concealing, altering, or destroying a document or other information.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Janis Gore:

    The defendant was conscious of the wrongful nature of the act, but engaged in it / attempted to engage in it anyway. The purpose of “corruptly” is to establish mens rea

    The 1505 elements are:

    1) a proceeding was pending before a department or agency of the United States or before Congress; (check)

    2) the defendant was aware of the pending proceeding; (check) and

    3) the defendant intentionally and corruptly endeavored to obstruct that proceeding (what we’d have to prove in court)

    Short version: we have to prove that a proceeding was extant, that the defendant knew about the proceeding, and that he/she knew that interfering with it / attempting to interfere with it is wrong, but set out to influence it anyway.

    Trump’s lawyers would argue that he had no such intent – that it was an innocent statement.

    Whereupon any competent prosecutor would flay them alive.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  27. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Janis Gore:

    Wouldn’t “threatening” be key?

    You could characterize the statement that Trump communicated via Twitter regarding the potential existence of tapes as being threatening, but it’s honestly incidental. The real problem for Trump was that the approach was ever made in the first place.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. Janis Gore says:

    @HarvardLaw92: OK, then.

    Most lawyers agree with you. Elizabeth Price Foley does not. She claims that “pending proceedings” does not include the FBI because it has no enforcement authority.

    Andrew McCarthy disagrees because the ongoing investigation was not a criminal, but an intelligence, investigation which falls under the purview of the president.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  29. Janis Gore says:

    @Janis Gore: Dershowitz disagrees because the president has the authority to fire the FBI director for any reason, therefore there is no actus reus (wrongful act) . Motive is irrelevant.

    The questions surrounding the act are political and not criminal in nature.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Janis Gore:

    An Instapundit blogger at a Tier 3 law school and Andrew McCarthy disagreeing with me don’t keep me awake at night, I assure you :-)

    Dershowitz is focusing on the wrong aspect. The actus reus here was not the firing – it was the approach itself. The firing is incidental.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  31. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Janis Gore:

    That having been said, I’ll humor you:

    She’s basing her assertion on the conclusion by a few circuits that FBI investigations do not constitute proceedings for the purpose of §1505. The circuits are divided on this issue, so depending on where the act took place, her theory could conceivably be correct with respect to some hypothetical scenario.

    This isn’t a hypothetical strawman (which is what she constructed). The only body of precedent which has any jurisdictional relevance to this set of actual events is that of the DC Circuit, and precedent there strongly disagrees with her interpretation.

    McCarthy I don’t bother considering, much less acknowledging.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  32. Janis Gore says:

    @HarvardLaw92: All right, then. I was wondering how you’d answer them. Thank you,

    Those are the only three arguments I could find quickly last night. But two of them were printed in popular publications and Dershowitz is, as usual, everywhere. So I’d expect them to be used by Trump supporters.

    Bring on the testimony.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  33. pylon says:

    @Janis Gore:

    Dershowitz voted for HRC, but seems like he is a Trump supporter to me. He’s been a guest at Mar-a-Lago. He’s praised or defended him on the travel ban, the Comey firing, his Israel visit, he said there should be no special prosecutor, then said the appointment of one was “good news” for Trump because nothing illegal had happened. He said last November that he was more worried about Obama than Trump on the middle east.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Janis Gore says:

    Maybe so. I don’t follow him, so I don’t know much about what he’s said beyond his statements on this issue.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. Kylopod says:

    @pylon:

    Dershowitz voted for HRC, but seems like he is a Trump supporter to me.

    Dershowitz has become something of a Republican concern troll over the past decade or so. I started noticing it in the Bush era, when this “civil libertarian” began defending torture. It’s too bad, because I liked some of his earlier books like Chutzpah.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. gVOR08 says:

    @Kylopod: Dershowitz’ second loyalty seems to be to Likud, and Democrats a distant third. His Likud sympathies probably account for his softness on torture. Dershowtz first loyalty is to Dershowitz. Saw the old movie Reversal of Fortune about his defense of Claus von Bulow. Dershowitz comes off as a completely self serving asshat. And he wrote the book!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Kylopod says:

    @gVOR08: I’m aware of all that. Those tendencies were in sight as early as Chutzpah (where his only argument about torture was that he didn’t think Israel engaged in it), but back in the ’90s he did at least plausibly come off as a Clinton Democrat (and to the left of Clinton on many domestic issues). He heavily warned Jews that the Christian Right weren’t to be trusted despite their ostensibly pro-Israel views. Flash forward to 2011, when he’s heaping effusive praise on Glenn Beck for simply traveling to Israel and expressing his support–without so much as mentioning his anti-Semitic campaign against George Soros or his odes to obscure pro-Nazi writers such as Elizabeth Dilling. There’s no question he’s jumped the shark.

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