Email #186: “obstruction of justice?”

During his Senate testimony last week, former FBI Director James Comey was asked about the President’s request to end the investigation of Michael Flynn:

“Do you believe this will rise to obstruction of justice?”

Comey answered: “I don’t know. That — that’s Bob Mueller’s job to sort that out.”

I also don’t know. But I do know that, in addition to the independent counsel, it is also your job to sort that out, since the Constitution requires you to begin impeachment hearings if there’s credible evidence.

According to federal law, the President would be guilty of obstruction of justice if he “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 administration of justice.” According to the Legal Information Institute, the law applies to the FBI investigation because “a defendant can be convicted of obstruction of justice by obstructing a pending proceeding before Congress or a federal agency. A pending proceeding could include an informal investigation by an executive agency.”

According to Comey, the President committed obstruction of justice when he told him, “I hope you can let this go.” Comey testified: “I took it as a direction. I mean, this is the president of the United States, with me alone, saying, ‘I hope’ this. I took it as, this is what he wants me to do.”

Comey also testified that his firing may be an additional obstruction of justice: “I was fired because of something about the way I was conducting the Russia investigation was, in some way, putting pressure on him, in some way, irritating him. And he decided to fire me because of that… I was fired, in some way, to change — or the endeavor was to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted.”

Currently there is only Comey’s sworn testimony, which the President has called untrue and irrelevant: “I didn’t say that. And there’d be nothing wrong if I did say it.” Reportedly, the President also asked NSA Director Mike Rogers and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats to intervene in the investigation, but neither would discuss this in the Senate open hearing last week. Coats said: “I do not feel it’s appropriate for me to in a public session in which confidential conversations between the President and myself.”

As you know and have repeatedly said, oversight of the Justice Department is the primary jurisdiction of the House Judiciary Committee. The FBI is a branch of the Justice Department, and yet you have not responded to allegations and evidence of attempts to obstruct one of its most critical investigations. Will you fulfill you constitutional duty as chair and ask Directors Coats and Rogers to testify in a private session? If either confirms the allegations, will you fulfill your duty to the nation and begin impeachment proceedings?

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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