There’s evidence Donald Trump abused his power, but it’s not yet clear that he obstructed justice.
Earlier this afternoon the Senate Intelligence Committee released the text of former FBI director James Comey’s prepared testimony, which he’s slated to deliver Thursday morning. It’s detailed, it offers on-the-record confirmation of a variety of anonymously sourced news reports, and it’s damaging. To be sure, there are some elements that are good for President Trump, but overall it shows a chief executive placing improper pressure on the FBI director — pressure that no GOP politician would tolerate from a Democratic president.
Let’s break down the key elements, beginning with the parts that are good for Trump.
First, the testimony itself does not show that Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice. Turning to the key portion of Comey’s testimony, here’s the relevant excerpt of his summary of a February 14 meeting in the Oval Office:
The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.” (In fact, I had a positive experience dealing with Mike Flynn when he was a colleague as Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency at the beginning of my term at FBI.) I did not say I would “let this go.”
This is clearly improper, but it isn’t a command, and Comey didn’t interpret it as a command.