The case for impeaching Donald Trump for obstruction of justice strengthened on Thursday after James Comey said he believed he had been fired because of the FBI’s investigation into Trump and his teams’ ties to Russia.
Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee: “It’s my judgment that I was fired because of the Russia investigation. I was fired in some way to change, or the endeavor was to change, the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a very big deal.”
Firing the FBI head over a Russia probe, as Trump himself also admitted he did, fits the federal legal definition of obstruction of justice. Trump has by force (firing Comey) endeavoured to influence and impede an officer in the discharge of his duty.
The relevant section of the federal legal code is:
(a) Whoever corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, endeavors to influence, intimidate, or impede any grand or petit juror, or officer in or of any court of the United States, or officer who may be serving at any examination or other proceeding before any United States magistrate judge or other committing magistrate, in the discharge of his duty, or injures any such grand or petit juror in his person or property on account of any verdict or indictment assented to by him, or on account of his being or having been such juror, or injures any such officer, magistrate judge, or other committing magistrate in his person or property on account of the performance of his official duties, or 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, shall be punished as provided in subsection (b).
Trump’s act of firing Comey, accompanied by a threatening letter and tweets, came after Trump tried to intimidate Comey into dropping a vital part of that investigation as it stood in February 14th, namely the investigation into Michael Flynn.
Comey described a meeting in the Oval Office in February, when Trump allegedly ordered everyone to leave the room, including the attorney general, in order to be alone with Comey precisely so that he could pressure him illegally to drop the investigation.
“I hope you can let this go,” Trump said, according to Comey.
The way Trump arranged the circumstances and his order framed as a request also fit the definition of a threatening, intimidating endeavour to impede the course of justice as defined by the federal code.
Comey also branded Trump a liar, who tried to smear the reputation of Comey and the FBI after his sacking, more elements of threat and intimidation to obstruct the course of justice, this time designed to dissuade Comey from speaking out and any successor from following through.
Comey said he documented every meeting he had with Trump because he thought the president might lie about what had taken place.
Comey passed details of the memos of his meetings through a friend to the media in the hope of spurring the appointment of a special counsel, something which was his patriotic duty.