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?

Email #174: “take the Fifth”?

“If you’re innocent,” Donald Trump said during an Iowa rally last summer, “why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?” He was condemning some of Secretary Clinton’s IT aides, saying that only criminals like “the mob take the Fifth.” The president’s former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has since evoked the 5th Amendment to avoid self-incrimination while under oath before the Senate. Flynn has also refused to turn over subpoenaed documents, which is itself a crime.

Hypocrisy aside, I am concerned why the President is still supporting someone who is at the heart of multiple Russia investigations and who the Republican-led House Oversight Committee already condemned for breaking multiple laws. Politico reported that the President “stunned” aides inside the White House by saying he should not have fired him and that Flynn was still a “good man.” Another source said: “Trump loves him.”

While loyalty is a virtue, it appears the President values loyalty over law. Paul Krugman recently accused the entire Republican party of a similar bias: “nearly all Republicans in today’s Congress are apparatchiks, political creatures with no higher principle beyond party loyalty.” I would like to think that doesn’t describe you, but I don’t know how else to explain so many of your inconsistencies.

You, for example, said you agreed with the Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein’s recommendation to fire FBI Director Comey. “Almost everyone agrees that the Director made serious mistakes,” said Rosenstein, “it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.” He criticized Comey for his statements about Secretary Clinton last summer because Comey ignored a “longstanding principle: we do not hold press conferences to release derogatory information about the subject of a declined criminal investigation…. The Director laid out his version of the facts for the news media as if it were a closing argument, but without a trial. It is a textbook example of what federal prosecutors and agents are taught not to do.” Rosenstein also said Comey’s “letter to the Congress on October 28, 2016 … violated long-standing Justice Department policies and traditions. And it ran counter to … the proper way to conduct investigations during an election season.”

But in what sense do you agree with Rosenstein’s judgements? You strongly supported Comey’s letter at the time. You said in October:

“he thinks that given the fact that Mrs. Clinton has been traveling around the country for 3 ½ months saying that the FBI has cleared her of wrongdoing, that when there is new, and I believe, substantial information available why wouldn’t he tell the American people that this is still under investigation?”

That is the opposite of Rosenstein’s point. You supported what he later called “serious mistakes.” And on what basis did you say the reopened investigation had “new” and “substantial” information? You knew at the time that the source of emails—a PC owned by the husband of a top Clinton aide–likely included only duplicates of emails already reviewed. Did you “believe” based on wishful thinking? Or was your false statement a knowing misrepresentation designed to influence voters?

It seems you supported Comey’s decision in October because it aided your party, and it seems you supported Rosenstein’s decision in April also because it aided your party—even though the two decisions and your support of them are contradictory. Could you please explain what else than party loyalty could make you behave so inconsistently?

Or will you take the Fifth as you do with all of my questions?

Email #161: “uphold our Constitution”?

The Constitution states that “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

To the best of my knowledge, President Trump has committed no impeachable crimes. But according to former FBI Director Comey, the investigation of possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign is underway because it met the FBI’s evidentiary threshold. So there is “a credible allegation of wrongdoing or reasonable basis to believe that an American may be acting as an agent of a foreign power.”

We also know that the President has made multiple false and misleading statements about the investigation. He tweeted over the weekend: “When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?”

Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence who retired in January, said in March that he was not aware of any evidence of collusion because he was not involved in any investigation. He repeated this over the weekend: “I don’t know if there was collusion or not.” He also added:

“our institutions are under assault both externally — and that’s the big news here, Russian interference in our election system — and I think, as well, our institutions are under assault internally…. the Founding Fathers … created a system of three co-equal branches of government, and a built-in system of checks and balances. And I feel as though that’s under assault and is eroding.”

When asked to clarify if he meant that our institutions are under assault internally by the President, he responded: “Exactly.” It is peculiar then for the President to cite Director Clapper to support his claim that he is not being investigated. The fact-checking website Politifact.com gives the President a “mostly false” on that point.

While it is not an impeachable offense for a President to make “mostly false” statements unless under oath, it does illustrate Clapper’s concern. Why is President Trump openly misleading the American public about the investigation? And, equally importantly, why are you allowing this?

You assured me in January that you would “uphold our Constitution and put the interests of the citizens of the 6th District of Virginia and the country as a whole above the interests of any individual or political party.” Like Director Clapper, you refered to “our constitutional system of three co-equal branches of government” and how it prevents “one branch from assuming too much authority without a challenge from the other branches of government.”

But that is only true if the members of each branch take action when needed. You are not. While the President is responsible for assaulting the integrity of the White House, you are responsible for the eroding integrity of Congress generally and the House Judiciary Committee specifically. That will be your legacy.