Email #235: “unhindered by politics”?

During Thursday’s meeting of your House Judiciary Committee, you said of H. Res. 446: “This resolution seems to be just one more opportunity for my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to vicariously voice Hillary Clinton’s long and growing list for why she lost the election.” And yet the resolution was titled “Of inquiry requesting the President and directing the Attorney General to transmit, respectively, certain documents to the House of Representatives relating to the removal of former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey,” and it covered these eight topics:

1. The firing of Director James B. Comey of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

2. The participation of Attorney General Jefferson Sessions in the removal of Director Comey.

3. The scope or application of Attorney General Sessions’ recusal from “any existing or future investigations of any matters in any way related to the campaigns for President of the United States”.

4. The application of Attorney General Sessions’ recusal to the removal of Director Comey.

5. The scope or application of executive privilege as applied to the June 13, 2017, testimony of Attorney General Sessions before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

6. President Donald J. Trump’s statement, communicated via Twitter on May 12, 2017 at 8:26 a.m.: “James Comey better hope that there are no ‘tapes’ of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!”.

7. Any system used by the White House to secretly record conversations between President Trump and Director Comey.

8. Any contemporaneous account of any meeting between President Trump and Director Comey.

While I agree that Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee should not use their positions to “voice Hillary Clinton’s long and growing list for why she lost the election,” I am confused how these eight points of inquiry relate to your criticism since none refer directly or indirectly to Clinton and all took place several months after the election.

More strangely, while falsely accusing Democrats of focusing on the election, you altered their resolution to do precisely that. You requested a second special counsel be appointed because: “the directive given to Special Counsel Robert Mueller is narrow in scope and many concerns arising out of the 2016 presidential election and its aftermath are not being investigated.”

While this contradiction is concerning, it is only one of several. You also justified your request because of the “seemingly unlimited focus of the special counsel’s investigation.” How can Special Counsel Mueller’s focus be both “narrow” and “unlimited”?

You also state In your letter to the Attorney General that: “we presume that the FBI’s investigation into Russian influence has been subsumed into Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.” You are responsible for overseeing the Justice Department; why would you presume anything instead of acquiring actual information?

You state that the FBI investigation has “produced no evidence of criminality, despite the fact that over a year has passed.” While literally true, the statement is peculiar since the FBI would not release any evidence until after it has completed its investigation and report. Do you not understand this most basic aspect of the investigative process?

Still worse, you accuse the Democrats on your Committee of “hypocrisy” and “political gamesmanship.” You characterize their original resolution of inquiry as “undue political influence,” even though it is the function of the House Judiciary Committee to make such inquiries.

Finally, after accusing “many Democrats and members of the Washington media” of creating “an unfortunate state of affairs,” you asked the Attorney General to assist you “in restoring public confidence in our nation’s justice system” and enabling the Justice Department and FBI to function “fully unhindered by politics.”

As if to achieve this goal, your “amended” resolution deleted all of the original eight topics and replaced them with these fourteen:

1. Then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch directing Mr. Comey to mislead the American people on the nature of the Clinton investigation;

2. The shadow cast over our system of justice concerning Secretary Clinton and her involvement in mishandling classified information;

3. FBI and DOJ’s investigative decisions related to former Secretary Clinton’s email investigation, including the propriety and consequence of immunity deals given to potential Clinton co-conspirators Cheryl Mills, Heather Samuelson, John Bentel and possibly others;

4. The apparent failure of DOJ to empanel a grand jury to investigate allegations of mishandling of classified information by Hillary Clinton and her associates;

5. The Department of State and its employees’ involvement in determining which communications of Secretary Clinton’s and her associates to turn over for public scrutiny;

6. WikiLeaks disclosures concerning the Clinton Foundation and its potentially unlawful international dealings;

7. Connections between the Clinton campaign, or the Clinton Foundation, and foreign entities, including those from Russia and Ukraine;

8. Mr. Comey’s knowledge of the purchase of Uranium One by the company Rosatom, whether the approval of the sale was connected to any donations made to the Clinton Foundation, and what role Secretary Clinton played in the approval of that sale that had national security ramifications;

9. Disclosures arising from unlawful access to the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) computer systems, including inappropriate collusion between the DNC and the Clinton campaign to undermine Senator Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign;

10. Post-election accusations by the President that he was wiretapped by the previous Administration, and whether Mr. Comey and Ms. Lynch had any knowledge of efforts made by any federal agency to unlawfully monitor communications of then-candidate Trump or his associates;

11. elected leaks of classified information related to the unmasking of U.S. person identities incidentally collected upon by the intelligence community, including an assessment of whether anyone in the Obama Administration, including Mr. Comey, Ms. Lynch, Ms. Susan Rice, Ms. Samantha Power, or others, had any knowledge about the “unmasking” of individuals on then candidate-Trump’s campaign team, transition team, or both;

12. Admitted leaks by Mr. Comey to Columbia University law professor, Daniel Richman, regarding conversations between Mr. Comey and President Trump, how the leaked information was purposefully released to lead to the appointment of a special counsel, and whether any classified information was included in the now infamous “Comey memos”;

13. Mr. Comey’s and the FBI’s apparent reliance on “Fusion GPS” in its investigation of the Trump campaign, including the company’s creation of a “dossier” of information about Mr. Trump, that dossier’s commission and dissemination in the months before and after the 2016 election, whether the FBI paid anyone connected to the dossier, and the intelligence sources of Fusion GPS or any person or company working for Fusion GPS and its affiliates; and

14. Any and all potential leaks originated by Mr. Comey and provide to author Michael Schmidt dating back to 1993.

How can you accuse your Democratic colleagues of “political gamesmanship” and then approve this list? Had you retained the original eight topics and then added these additional fourteen, you could at least claim to be seeking political balance. Instead you have accused your colleagues of hypocrisy and then exceeded them with a greater display of your own hypocrisy.

While I have been frustrated by many of your past actions and inaction, I have not seen you behave ridiculously before. Your behavior on Thursday was undignified. You will look back at this with embarrassment.

 

 

Email #229: “our shame”?

Congressman Caldwell Butler represented Virginia’s District 6 from his special election victory in 1972 to his retirement ten years later. Like you, Butler was a Roanoke lawyer and a loyal member of the Republican party. According to the Washington Post: “if anyone could be counted on during the agonies of Watergate, it was surely Rep. M. Caldwell Butler.”

But then Butler surprised his party and his country, announcing that he would vote for President Nixon’s impeachment: “For years we Republicans have campaigned against corruption and misconduct … But Watergate is our shame. I cannot condone what I have heard, I cannot excuse it, and I cannot and will not stand still for it.” Butler was a member of the House Judiciary Committee and his vote received national attention because it signaled a shift in the GOP away from their own President. Nixon resigned two weeks later.

Butler made his announcement on July 24, 1974—forty-three years ago today. You now occupy his Congressional seat. You are not only a member of the House Judiciary Committee, you are its chair. And if anyone has been counted upon so far during the agonies of the Trump scandals, it’s certainly been you.

And yet you have campaigned against corruption and misconduct too. Speaker Ryan complimented you in 2012 for working hard “to keep watch over the executive branch.” The first House Speaker you served under, Newt Gingrich, said your “basic approach is to try to bring everyone together to get to a solution.” You also weild far more power and responsibility than your predecessor. As Gingrich said: “As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, he has a lot of influence because he really does run the committee. In Bob’s case there’s no question he is in charge.”

When Butler died, he was eulogized as a maverick. While there’s little chance that you will be remembered similarly, there is still a chance you will be remembered well. But your reputation will rise or fall based on your actions toward the Trump administration. History will either record you as a Representative who upheld the honor and independence of Caldwell’s congressional district seat or as a party toady who buried his head at the moment of his career when his nation needed him most.

Will you use your influence to continue the Republican party’s shame or to end it?

Email #228: “outstanding oversight questions”?

When you wrote to Attorney General Sessions on Friday you told him: “you lead a Department over which the House Judiciary Committee has primary oversight jurisdiction” and “Congressional oversight is not a responsibility that we take lightly.” Although I am pleased to hear you reiterate these two essential facts, I am confused by how you are responding to your primary oversight responsibility.

In a New York Times interview last week President Trump accused the Justice Department of a wide range of inappropriateness. Regarding Special Counsel Mueller, the President said:

“Because I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case.”

He also accused Mueller of having a conflict of interest because Mueller applied for the position of FBI Director after the President fired James Comey:

“The next day, he is appointed special counsel. I said, what the hell is this all about? Talk about conflicts?”

Regarding acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, the President said:

“We have a director of the F.B.I., acting, who received $700,000, whose wife received $700,000 from, essentially, Hillary Clinton. ’Cause it was through [Virginia Governor] Terry [McAuliffe]. Which is Hillary Clinton…. McCabe’s wife. She got $700,000, and he’s at the F.B.I. I mean, how do you think that?”

Regarding Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, the President said:

“he gives me a letter, O.K., he gives me a letter about Comey. And by the way, that was a tough letter, O.K. Now, perhaps I would have fired Comey anyway, and it certainly didn’t hurt to have the letter, O.K. But he gives me a very strong letter, and now he’s involved in the case. Well, that’s a conflict of interest.”

Regarding Attorney General Sessions, the President said:

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else…. It’s extremely unfair, and that’s a mild word, to the president.”

He also criticized Sessions’ Senate hearing:

“So Jeff Sessions, Jeff Sessions gave some bad answers…. he gave some answers that were simple questions and should have been simple answers, but they weren’t.”

Those simple answers included: “I never had meetings with Russian operatives or Russian intermediaries about the Trump campaign.” But the Washington Post reported on Friday that U.S. intelligence intercepted Russian Ambassador Kyslak’s communications to Moscow in which he describes speaking to Sessions about “campaign-related matters.” If the report is true, then the Attorney General committed perjury.

Finally, the President said of the entire Justice Department:

“Look, there are so many conflicts that everybody has.… There were many other conflicts that I haven’t said, but I will at some point.”

Each one of these allegations is concerning, and since your committee has primary oversight jurisdiction for them all, I would expect your letter to the Attorney General to have addressed at least some of them. And yet you did not mention any. Instead your letter focused not on the current administration but on the Obama administration: ­

“the Judiciary Committee sent letters to your predecessors as Attorney General, and to individual DOJ components, requesting answers to a multitude of questions concerning various issues of interest stemming from Judiciary hearings and oversight responsibilities.  Many of the inquiries remain unanswered, with some outstanding requests approaching two years overdue…. we write now asking you to rectify this situation, by helping the Judiciary Committee obtain answers to outstanding oversight questions.”

Though I admire your thoroughness in wishing to close two-year-old inquiries, is it appropriate to thank Attorney General Sessions for “giving this request priority”? What about your current oversight responsibilities? What about obtaining answers to current oversight questions? Is this how you demonstrate that oversight is not a responsibility that you take lightly–by ignoring current concerns while prioritizing inconsequential ones?

Email #225: “Rest assured”?

The eighth member of the June 9, 2016 Trump Tower meeting was revealed on Tuesday: Irakly Kaveladze, a Russian financier investigated for money laundering after he created over 100 bank accounts and 2,000 shell companies in Delaware to move hundreds of millions of his Russian clients’ money overseas.

While this is of great interest to Special Counsel Mueller, Mueller also gave the Senate Judiciary Committee permission on Tuesday to interview anyone who was at the June 9 meeting. The Committee’s leading Democrat, Senator Feinstein, said they intend to invite both Donald Trump Jr. and Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Though both men have said they are willing to cooperate with investigations, Republican Senator Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, warns he will subpoena both if they decline his Committee’s invitations.

Meanwhile, your House Judiciary Committee remains unaccountably inactive. Do you plan to issue invitations too? Have you, like your Senate counterpart, met with Mueller to arrange deconfliction, the congressional practice of coordinating with ongoing federal investigations? Have you made any kind of contact with Mueller at all?

Your disinterest in the Special Counsel is striking given how proactive you have appeared regarding other recent executive branch investigations. In March when two immigrant teens were accused of rape in Maryland, you wrote to the head of Homeland Security just “to request information” and to offer your “legislative and other resources that would aid your mission,” requesting from him “any such legislative changes that your Department would like to see.” You wrote a similar letter in April after the murder of a Roanoke resident, again just “to request information,” promising to “remain close contact as the investigation continues to unfold.”

Why then are you not requesting information from the Special Counsel? Why are you not offering your legislative and other resources? Why are you not asking for legislative changes that his office would like to see? Why are you not remaining in close contact as the investigation unfolds?

You wrote to me in May: “Rest assured I will work to ensure this investigation is conducted in an impartial and appropriate manner.” But what work have you done in the last two months to carry out this promise? Please list the steps you have taken to oversee the investigation.

Email #219: “Rigged game”?

Why are President Trump’s supporters casting doubt about special counsel Mueller’s investigation? Last month New Gingrich called it a “rigged game” because four members of Mueller’s over 15-member team donated to Democratic candidates. Gingrich tweeted: “Republicans are delusional if they think the special counsel is going to be fair. Look who he is hiring. Check FEC reports. Time to rethink.”

The President also implied the investigation was unfair: “I can say that the people that have been hired are all Hillary Clinton supporters, some of them worked for Hillary Clinton.”

But according to Politifact: “The Justice Department has looked into the contributions and employment histories of all of their hires and determined them consistent with the rules of professional responsibility. Trump’s implication is that the investigation is politically motivated, but we see nothing to support that.” Also, Mueller is himself a Republican and was appointed FBI Director by President Bush.

And yet now Tomi Lahren of Great America Alliance is appearing in the tv ad “Witch Hunt,” saying: “Only in Washington could a rigged game like this be called independent.”

But isn’t the special counsel the President’s best opportunity to “lift the cloud”? By disparaging the investigation, do he and his supporters already believe its findings will be damaging to him? You said in May: “Former FBI Director Mueller is a well-respected law enforcement professional. I’m confident he will conduct a thorough, fair investigation.” Do you still stand by that statement? If so, why have you done nothing to counter the false claims by Gingrich, Lahren, and the President himself? Why are you allowing them to undermine the credibility of the special counsel?

Because Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Mueller’s collusion investigation is part of the Justice Department, it is your responsibility as chair of the House Judiciary Committee to oversee it. Whatever Mueller concludes, the American public need to trust that his assessment is correct. Protecting that trust is your responsibility.

Email #206: “unwavering commitment”?

White House spokesperson Kelly Love said last month: “The Trump administration has an unwavering commitment to the civil rights of all Americans.” But the administration’s civil rights budgets waver significantly.

The Labor Department intends to eliminate its agency that polices discrimination by federal contractors. It’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs caught both Palantir Technologies and Gordon Food Service violating the law by discriminating against Asians and women. As a result, the companies settled lawsuits for nearly $2 million each. This was possible only because the agency conducted detailed audits, a policy that the Trump administration would eliminate by transferring the agency’s enforcement duties to another department while reducing overall funding. And yet the budget says this will “strengthen civil rights enforcement.”

The Education Department intends to reduce its Office of Civil Rights, even though the need for policing is increasing. The budget proposal acknowledges this: “To address steady increases in the number of complaints received and decreased staffing levels, OCR must make difficult choices. OCR’s enforcement staff will be limited in conducting onsite investigations and monitoring, and OCR’s ability to achieve greater coordination and communication regarding core activities will be greatly diminished.”

Since the House Judiciary Committee has jurisdiction over matters relating to the administration of justice in administrative bodies, I assume these changes concern you. As you have said, we are a nation of laws, and many of these laws are civil rights laws. While budgetary efficiency is laudable, it does not justify allowing unlawful discrimination to continue and grow.

More concerning, the Justice Department is wavering in its commitment to civil rights too.  Attorney General Sessions advocated that litigation against a Texas voter ID law be dismissed, but a U.S. District Judge instead struck it down for intentionally discriminating against minorities. Why is the Justice Department supporting discrimination?

When I visited your DC office and spoke with your chief of staff, he said that the Trump administration’s changes were about getting back to the status quo and enforcing laws that the Obama administration ignored. He was referring to immigration laws. But do you feel the executive branch should be allowed to ignore and in some cases promote the violation of civil rights laws?

This has nothing to do with divisions between Democrats and Republicans, or progressives and conservatives. Civil rights are a bedrock value that all Americans support. Please fulfill your duty as chair of the House Judiciary Committee and see that the executive branch, the Justice Department especially, is fulfilling its duties to all of America.

Email #202: Foreign Emoluments Clause?

There are now three lawsuits filed against President Trump for allegedly violating the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause.

The Constitution states: “no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” According to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which filed its suit in January, and to the attorney generals of DC and Maryland, who filed their suit this month, as well as to the 196 members of Congress who filed in the same week, payments to Trump businesses by foreign dignitaries and state-owned businesses are emoluments that violate the clause.

In response to the first lawsuit, the Justice Department issued a brief arguing that the clause only applies to “a payment or other benefit received as a consequence of discharging the duties of an office.” So “emoluments” can only be overt bribes. If true, there’s nothing unconstitutional about foreign dignitaries indirectly paying the President to stay in a hotel that he owns, a practice some diplomats now follow because, they reason, “spending money at Trump’s hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.” If the brief is true, the emoluments clause would also not bar China’s state-owned Chinese from continuing to loan the President millions of dollars.

But it is not clear whether this interpretation is accurate. There is a variety of evidence that the Justice Department’s new definition does not match the definition used during the historical period in which the Constitution was written or even the meaning the framers specifically intended. Justice Kennedy’s former clerk Joshua Matz and Harvard Law School professor Laurence H. Tribe argue convincingly that the Justice Department’s brief is incorrect. Have you read their “President Trump Has No Defense Under the Foreign Emoluments Clause”? I am no lawyer, so it would be helpful to me and the vast majority of your constituents if you would explain in a balanced, non-partisan manner the merits of their argument.

More importantly, since your House Judiciary Committee oversees the Justice Department, have you reviewed and responded to their memorandum defending the President?  Again, while I am no lawyer, I am struck by for the unfortunate logic of one point especially:

“Plaintiffs challenge everything from a single diplomat’s payment for hospitality services to any trademarks, permits, licenses, and approvals that may be granted by foreign governments in connection with the commercial activities of the President’s business organization in numerous countries. Any relief directed at those activities would ensnare the President in prolonged litigation over any number of transactions, “distract[ing] [the President] from his constitutional responsibility to ‘take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed,’”

This would seem to be a compelling argument for why the President should either divest from all of his businesses or to place them all in a blind trust. I do not know if the President is violating the emoluments clause, but I do know that his multi-billion-dollar network of businesses is a major distraction from his constitutional responsibilities.

I also know you more than all other members of Congress should be vigilantly and nonpartisanly overseeing both the President and the Justice Department. I would like to believe that you are. But your unwillingness to speak to some of the most pressing issues created by the President’s problematic actions suggests otherwise.

When history looks back at the Trump Presidency, you will be listed among the members of his party who failed to recognize and address his most damaging failings.

Email #200: “fishing expedition”?

I am pleased that the President voluntarily submitted a new, 98-page financial disclosure form months before he was legally required to and that the Office of Government Ethics released the form publicly this month. The inexactness of the form, however, emphasizes the continuing need for the President to release his tax records or provide other more detailed reports.

The form allows open-ended ranges, such as “over $50 million” for the value of one of the President’s golf courses. As a result, it reveals that the President owes at least $311 million in mortgages and loans, but possibly far more. (Of the 16 loans he reported, three are below $1 million, seven are below $25 million, one is below $50 million, and the remaining five loans are each above $50 million; how far above is unknown.) More importantly, the form does not reveal the identities of the President’s financial partners. We still do not know what individuals and institutions here and abroad have invested this money in his businesses. As a result, it is impossible to determine what business-related conflicts of interest the President has.

Although you previously identified oversight of the executive branch as one of your top priorities, you have refused requests by members of your own House Judiciary Committee to write to the White House requesting the President’s tax records. You said you could not support such a “fishing expedition.”

I appreciate that reasoning. Kenneth Starr turned the Whitewater real estate investigation into a “fishing expedition” when he deposed President Clinton regarding his unrelated affair with Monica Lewinsky. The House committee on Benghazi used its investigation to disclose Secretary Clinton’s inadequate email security, a topic which soon eclipsed the purpose of the probe.

Although you supported both of those previous “fishing expeditions,” I agree with your newly stated principle opposing such free-ranging probes. For that reason I ask that you lead a compromise approach to President Trump’s finances.

Could you request that the White House release copies of the President’s most recent taxes only to the House Judiciary Committee and only for a very limited period of time? The taxes would only be viewed by Committee members and with the explicit requirement that their content not be revealed publicly except in regard to specific topics identified in advance. More minimally, you could request the identities of all of the President’s business partners. This would avoid a “fishing expedition” while still accessing the most essential information for overseeing the President’s financial activity.

If you are unwilling to make these specific requests, what alternative approaches are you pursuing to oversee the executive branch regarding the President’s business conflicts of interest?

Email #187: “a serious committee”?

Why is the Senate Judiciary Committee actively overseeing the Justice Department while the House Judiciary Committee is not?

According to committee member Senator Feinstein, she and Republican Senator Grassley, chair of the committee, are discussing whether to subpoena both former FBI Director Comey and Attorney General Sessions to testify. Their fellow committee member Senator Klobuchar said at a meeting last week:

“At some point, the leadership in both the majority and the minority have to say that this is, [we] must have some role in asserting the jurisdiction of this committee. Because we have these kinds of jurisdictional disputes sometimes but it seems to me that all, nearly like 90 percent of these issues, should be under our committee.”

Grassley agreed: “I think you’re finding a stone wall that opposes what you and I feel about this, and I resent it.”

To its credit, the House Intelligence Committee is investigating whether there was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign too. But it is unclear whether the scope of their investigation includes how the administration has dealt with the FBI’s investigation of the same matter, including the firing of Comey. Those concerns fall clearly under the jurisdiction of the Judiciary Committee. Your counterparts in the Senate recognize that fact and are frustrated and resentful that their oversight is being hampered.

“At some point,” said Senator Whitehouse, “the Judiciary Committee has to decide whether it’s going to continue to be a serious committee anymore.”

Is the House Judiciary a serious committee?

A month has passed since members of your committee asked you to take action:

“Because it falls to our Committee to ensure the integrity and independence of both the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, we ask that you schedule hearings with the key players in this matter—former Director Comey, Attorney General Sessions, and Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein—as soon as practicable and certainly by no later than May 25, 2017.”

That date has come and gone, but the dismissal of Director Comey still demands a clear and compelling explanation and the Administration still has provided none. The President openly contradicted the original explanation that he was following the Deputy Attorney General’s advice: “I was going to fire Comey. Regardless of the recommendation I was going to fire Comey.”

The White House also claimed: “Comey had lost the confidence across the board — from House members, from Senate members, from rank-and-file members of the FBI and the American public. When you have that happen, you can’t serve in that capacity.”

But Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe contradicted that claim too: “Director Comey enjoyed broad support in the FBI and still does to this day.”

Why then was he fired?

A member of your committee, Rep. Gutierrez, wrote to you and White House Counsel Don McGahn last Friday, asking that you accept the President’s statement that his is “100%” willing to testify under oath regarding his conversations with Comey:

“It is the House Judiciary Committee that should be the venue for the President to defend himself against the serious allegations of official misconduct, including but not limited to apparent attempts at obstruction of justice in the removal of Mr. Comey in order to relieve the ‘pressure’ the President was feeling from investigations related to his campaign’s ties to Russian meddling in America’s most recent presidential election. Therefore, I believe it is incumbent on you as Chairman to immediately invite the President to testify.”

Will you please restore the seriousness of the House Judiciary Committee by asking the President to appear before them?

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?