Daniel Hemel: "Comey’s Testimony Strengthened the Case that President Trump Obstructed Justice"

Comey’s testimony strengthened the case that President Trump obstructed justice
Daniel Hemel
June 9, 2017

“I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russia investigation,” former FBI Director James Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. But he specifically declined to say, during his much-anticipated testimony, whether President Trump’s request that the bureau back off its investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn rises to the level of obstruction of justice.

Still, Comey’s testimony, as well as the written statement that preceded it and the testimony of other intelligence chiefs a day earlier, bring us closer to determining whether President Trump has committed obstruction. In a nutshell: The case that President Trump has violated federal criminal law is substantially stronger than it was at the beginning of the week, though it is still not open-and-shut.

And while the constitutional standard for impeachment and removal—“high Crimes and Misdemeanors”—is much disputed, there is widespread agreement that the phrase encompasses the crime of obstruction.

Trump may be shielded from criminal indictment by virtue of his status as president, and he may remain shielded from impeachment by virtue of the fact that his own party controls both chambers of Congress. On the law, though, the argument that Trump is guilty of obstructing the FBI’s Flynn probe is quickly gathering steam.

Daniel Hemel