High Crimes And Misdemeanors

Donald Trump sat down for an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt and gave congress all the cause they need to start writing the articles of impeachment when he admitted that he fired FBI Director James Comey because of the investigation of his campaign’s possible connection to the Russian interference with the 2016 election. In an Op-Ed, a constitutional lawyer and two former White House ethics lawyers shredded Trump firing calling it worse that breaking the law.

Firing Comey is worse than breaking a law

Laurence Tribe, Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, USA Today

If President Trump’s shockingly sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey had violated some statute or constitutional provision, our judicial branch could easily have remedied that misstep. What the president did was worse. It was a challenge to the very premises of our system of checks and balances precisely because it violated no mere letter of the law but its essential spirit. No one, not even a president, is above the law. And thus no public official, high or petty, can simply fire those our system trusts to investigate and remedy that official’s possible bribery, treason, or other disloyalty to the nation.

As virtually every observer not beholden to this president has recognized, the excuses offered in his “You’re Fired” letter to Comey were laughably pretextual. The letter came several days after Comey asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for added resources to expand his wide-ranging investigation into Trump team ties to Russia. It included Trump’s altogether implausible assertion that Comey had assured Trump three times that he was not himself under investigation. And White House statements absurdly attributed the decision to fire the director to his handling of the email controversy surrounding Hillary Clinton fully half a year ago, during the 2016 presidential campaign — for which Trump has praised Comey ever since.

At this point, it is exceedingly difficult to avoid the conclusion that the president is seeking to cover up wrongdoing on his own part and/or on the part of various close associates; that he is prepared to lie to government officials and to the world about the reasons for actions evidently designed to perpetrate just such a coverup; and that the wrongdoing the president is seeking to conceal is nothing minor or of merely tangential relevance to his office but, on the contrary, may involve collaboration with our Russian adversaries in attacking our democracy at its core.

Whether the president’s clumsy and seemingly ill-thought-out steps will backfire is impossible to predict. Attorney General Jeff Sessions had promised to recuse himself from all Justice Department matters involving Russian interference with our election, but waded right into the middle of the decision to discharge Comey. Perhaps Sessions will step aside while Rosenstein attempts to redeem himself for his role in the pretense that Comey was fired over missteps in the Clinton email probe. The deputy attorney general could do it by appointing an independent special counsel. [..]

The other main path is through Congress. Lawmakers are obviously unprepared just yet to initiate impeachment proceedings, but they may be coming closer to creating a bipartisan select committee to carry out the investigation Trump was evidently determined to keep the FBI from conducting. Indeed, even without a new committee, just three Republican senators joining with Democrats can give subpoena power to the Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into what some are calling Russiagate. Then at least one possibly credible body not subject to the president’s discharge power would be on the hunt for the real story of why Trump fired the main investigator on his trail and precisely what he has been trying to hide.

In the end, the most important task is to credibly track down the details of the global financial entanglements that have ensnared this administration from the outset, and that have led to litigation against Trump under the Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution. That is likely the key to unlocking the mystery of what underlying conduct is so terrible that the Trump administration is willing to tie itself into knots and disgrace itself on the world stage to conceal its conduct.

Given the bizarre unwillingness of the president to say anything unflattering about Russian President Vladimir Putin, and given his readiness to keep Michael Flynn on as national security adviser for a full 18 days after being warned that Flynn could be subject to blackmail by Putin and his thugs, the truth could lie in what Donald Trump Jr. described in 2008 as all the “money pouring in from Russia,” which he said makes up “a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets … in terms of high-end product influx into the U.S.”

The most troubling scenario is that the money is closely tied to the Putin government itself and is part of a web of reciprocal relationships between Trump and Putin, which included a collaborative effort to place Trump in the Oval Office.

It hardly needs saying that this explanation, if true, would necessarily lead to the impeachment, conviction and removal of President Trump — assuming the requisite political backbone on the part of the House and Senate. Let us fervently hope that it need not come to this, and that some more innocent explanation will emerge for the truly bizarre developments of the past 100-plus days and counting.

In an appearance on MSNBC with Lawrence O’Donnell, Professor Tribe took issue with Trump asking Comey if he was under investigation and other actions that are likely impeachable offenses.


Jedd Legum ponders the possibility that Trump may have written his own articles of impeachment:

President Donald Trump had the legal authority to fire FBI director James Comey. But if Trump’s intention in so doing was to impede the investigation into his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia then it could constitute obstruction of justice, an impeachable offense, legal experts told ThinkProgress earlier this week.

But establishing that Comey’s firing was obstruction of justice involves proving Trump’s state of mind. That’s very difficult to do.

If, as Trump claimed in his letter, he fired Comey because of his misconduct during the Clinton email investigation, that would be perfectly legal. If Trump really was trying to protect himself or his allies, that would be a “corrupt purpose.”

That’s why Trump’s interview with NBC’s Lester Holt is so extraordinary.

Trump told Holt that “when I decided to do it, I said to myself… this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.” Here Trump is admitting that his dissatisfaction with Comey was based, at least in part, on Comey’s decision to pursue an investigation into potential collusion between his campaign and Russia.

He is telling Holt his state of mind.


The only remedy for Trump is impeachment.