President Trump asked the FBI to drop its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and urged former FBI director James B. Comey instead to pursue reporters in leak investigations — according to private notes taken by Comey — people familiar with the matter said. …
“I hope you can let this go,’’ Trump said, according to the Comey notes, which were described by associates. Comey’s written account of the meeting is two pages long and highly detailed, the associates said. The details of Comey’s notes of the meeting were first reported by the New York Times.
The White House denies this is accurate. The administration’s credibility is nil right now, but if the president really does have “tapes,” we suspect they will bolster Comey’s account. The Times report indicates there may be documentation of other meetings with Trump as well.
One is tempted to marvel at the sheer stupidity of Trump, who somehow thought he could not only fire but humiliate the FBI director who was investigating him and his administration with no consequence. But Trump has always been Trump’s greatest liability — the hubris, the ignorance, the impulsiveness.
Letting the media know of the notes’ existence is one way to get a congressional committee or a grand jury to subpoena them. At that point, the issue is fully joined: Did Trump obstruct justice by pressuring and then firing the FBI director investigating his administration — and then concocting a cover story and sending aides out to lie?
Just about every Watergate cliche has relevance. The coverup really is worse than the crime. Don’t bet against the FBI. When there is concrete evidence of obstruction (the memo, the firing) it is very hard for the president’s party to stick with him.
Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) was somber on the floor of the Senate. “In a week full of revelation after revelation, on a day when we thought things couldn’t get any worse, they have.” He continued, “I was shaken by the report in the New York Times that alleged that the president tried to shut down an active FBI investigation into a close political associate. And we are only one day removed from stunning allegations that the president may have divulged classified information to a known adversary.” He warned, “Concerns about our national security, the rule of law, the independence of our nation’s highest law enforcement agencies are mounting. The country is being tested in unprecedented ways. I say to all of my colleagues in the Senate: History is watching.”
At this point, it is very possible that a few forthcoming Republican senators combined with the entire Democratic caucus will demand the Justice Department appoint a special counsel and Congress form a select committee. What would possibly be the GOP’s excuse for doing anything less?
Meanwhile, every Trump Cabinet official has to think long and hard about continuing to serve in the administration. Vice President Pence needs to be fully cognizant of the position the president put him in. He can no longer echo White House talking points, which may well be seen as part of the attempt to obstruct justice. With a now not insignificant chance the president will not fill out his term, Pence needs to remember he works for the people and not for Trump.