A Timeline Of President Trump’s Endeavor To Obstruct Justice

As Trump claims he’s above the law, a constitutional crisis looms

Former FBI Director James (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Former FBI Director James Comey (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Updated June 8, 2018

On June 8, 2017, former FBI Director James Comey delivered what will be remembered as one of the most consequential testimonies in modern history. Major networks interrupted their normal day-time TV to broadcast it live, which has only happened for a handful of congressional hearings (the Watergate hearings being among them). Americans tuned in with one question at the forefront of their minds: Is President Trump guilty of obstruction of justice?

There have been numerous reports since Trump fired Comey that depict a president who was eager to end the investigation into his campaign’s potential collusion with Russia, and from what we got from Comey’s testimony, that appears to be the case. Comey’s prepared opening statement confirmed President Trump’s demand for loyalty in a private dinner, Trump’s request to end the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and that Comey did indeed write detailed memos of all his interactions with Trump. And subsequent reports, as well as Trump’s own admission, confirmed that Trump was told Flynn lied to the FBI before he asked Comey to back off the investigation.

On January 4, 2018, The New York Times reported that the White House Counsel Don McGahn tried to lobby Attorney General Jeff Sessions to not recuse himself from the Trump-Russia investigation so that Trump could be protected. Also, four days before Trump fired Comey, an aide of Sessions tried to find dirt on James Comey.

These details combined with President Trump’s own admission (and Rudy Giuliani’s) that he had the Trump-Russia investigation in mind when he fired Comey, and his comments to Russian officials in the Oval Office further bolstering this admission, has left many thinking the president was trying to halt the Trump-Russia investigation. One need only look at Trump’s Twitter feed to see his paranoia in the all too frequent “WITCH HUNT!” tweets.

Some are going as far as to say there is an obstruction of justice case to be made against Trump. Obstruction of justice was President Richard Nixon’s first Article of Impeachment. These are serious charges, and given the evidence, these charges should be taken seriously — and they are.

Since the firing of Comey, Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed to take over the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and whether or not Trump’s campaign coordinated with Russian operatives. Comey’s FBI started the investigation in July 2016, and it has since dramatically expedited.

Mueller’s investigation has yielded indictments of 13 Russian entities for their propaganda efforts, plea agreements from 3 of Trump’s associates, and continues to inch closer to the president with every passing day. In recent months, Mueller subpoenaed documents related to Russia from the Trump Organization which is in large part responsible for Trump’s heightened unhinged behavior.

The investigation’s scope includes:

  • The repeated contacts between the Trump campaign and Russian operatives.
  • Potential coordination between Trump associates and Russia in the dissemination of anti-Clinton fake news and Russian propaganda.
  • Potential financial crimes committed by Donald Trump and some of his associates, who have been widely accused of money laundering for Russian oligarchs.

Last but not least, Mueller is probing potential obstruction of justice on the part of President Trump. Mueller has interviewed James Comey, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and requested documents from the DOJ about Comey’s firing. Now he seeks to interview the President himself.

We’ve since discovered that the president has made additional attempts to obstruct the Trump-Russia investigation. Trump tried to fire Mueller a month after firing Comey and again in December.

And now, there’s a new triggering event.

Trump didn’t take the news well.

This infuriated Trump, and now, he’s considering firing Rosenstein…

In spite of the President’s false claims he can’t obstruct justice, the stakes are high for Donald Trump…and for our democracy.

Let’s dive into the facts and see how likely it is that the President of the United States has endeavored to obstruct justice.

While reading this, ask yourself: would an innocent man do that?

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Exactly How The Comey Firing Went Down

President Trump shakes hands with James Comey (Getty Images)

Tuesday, May 9 2017. A day that will live in buffoonery. Former FBI Director James Comey was speaking to FBI employees in LA when news reports began coming across the TV screens behind him with the headline “Trump Fires Comey.” Comey reportedly laughed it off, thinking he was being pranked…He wasn’t.

Just like that, President Trump had fired the man leading the federal investigation into his campaign’s potential collusion with Russia. Trump sent a letter to Comey which stated the firing was based on the recommendation of Attorney General Jeff Sessions (who is supposed to be recused from the Trump-Russia investigation) and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Also, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s recommendation was released, and it was apparently based on the assertion that Comey treated Hillary Clinton unfairly during the course of his investigation into her private email server.

The White House claimed that the firing was a result of Trump gradually losing faith and trust in Comey’s ability to carry out his duties, and that it was triggered by Rosenstein’s recommendation. This was unbelievable to many for good reason…It turns out it was all a lie.

Thanks to some great reporting, an increase of leaks from federal employees, and Comey’s own opening statement a clearer picture of what occurred has come together:

January 6th

Comey briefed Trump on the Christopher Steele dossier and assures Trump he personally isn’t under investigation (but his campaign is). Comey began what would be a reoccurring habit of writing detailed memos of his interactions with Trump and later began reporting them to FBI leadership.

January 26th

Acting Attorney General Sally Yates laid out her concerns about Michael Flynn to White House Counsel Donald McGahn. The concerns were that he misled Vice President Mike Pence and that Flynn could be blackmailed by Russia.

January

CNN reports “White House counsel Donald McGahn told Trump that based on his conversation with then-acting Attorney General Sally Yates, he believed Flynn had not told the truth in his interview with the FBI or to Pence.” The report stated that it was in January, so it’s unclear if Trump knew this before he asked Comey for loyalty or after. Either way, he was aware before he asked Comey to back off Flynn in February and before he fired Sally Yates. Trump admitted to this on Twitter, but more on that later.

January 27th

The day after Yates warned the White House about Michael Flynn, Trump asked for Comey’s loyalty. Comey declined, saying he could only give him his honesty.

“I need loyalty, I expect loyalty.” — President Trump

January 30th

Trump fired Sally Yates after she refused to enforce his Muslim ban (which was later found to be unlawful.)

February 14th

After a scheduled counter-terrorism briefing in the Oval Office, President Trump asked everyone to leave (including Jeff Sessions and Jared Kushner) so he could speak to Comey alone. Trump then asked Comey if he could end the FBI’s investigation into Michael Flynn.

“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.” — President Trump

This was the day after Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser after lying about his sanctions-related conversations with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. Comey asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “prevent any future direct communication between the President” and himself. Sessions didn’t respond.

March 30th

President Trump called Comey at the FBI and went on about a “cloud” the investigation is putting over his administration and asked what could be done to “lift the cloud.” Comey said he was investigating as quickly as he could. Trump repeatedly asked Comey to get the word out that Trump himself was not under FBI investigation.

April 11th

President Trump called Comey, again referring to the Trump-Russia investigation as a “cloud” over his administration. Trump then asked Comey what he had done about his request to get word out that he himself was not under investigation. Comey said he reached out to Deputy AG Rod Rosenstein and hadn’t heard back. Trump said he would reach out himself. This was the last conversation between Trump and Comey.

At Least Three Weeks Before His Firing

Comey reportedly began getting daily updates on the Trump-Russia investigation and became concerned by “information showing potential evidence of collusion.”

The Tuesday Before His Firing

Comey reportedly asked Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein for significantly more resources for the Trump-Russia investigation. This was when the administration began “working to come up with reasons” to fire Comey.

The Day Before His Firing

In a meeting with Sessions and Rosenstein, Trump asked for Rosenstein to put a recommendation into writing after scrapping a previously written letter by Trump and his senior advisor Stephen Miller which was described as a “rant” outlining a more accurate picture of Trump’s reasoning.

The Day Of His Firing

Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.

Comparisons to the “Saturday Night Massacre” erupted from the public, as people began to compare this firing to President Richard Nixon’s firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox after he refused to drop the subpoena for the now infamous Nixon Tapes. Although this current circumstance is far more dangerous given the fact that a foreign entity was involved, the intent to obstruct an investigation is one in the same.

This move came as a “punch in the gut” to the FBI, leaving many in the bureau and the Department of Justice angry. Despite what then Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said after the firing about how the folks in the FBI had lost faith in Comey, he was very much beloved. One can argue this loyalty is what led to the flurry of leaks in the following weeks that put more puzzle pieces in place. A puzzle that depicts obstruction of justice

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The Case For Obstruction Of Justice

President Donald Trump (AP)

Obstruction of Justice: “whoever . . . . 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 (guilty of an offense).”

In order to be guilty of obstruction of justice, one doesn’t have to successfully obstruct an investigation. The law clearly states that anyone who “endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be (guilty of an offense).” Comey’s opening statement showed a detailed report of a president making multiple attempts to influence an investigation that is targeting his campaign.

“In prepared testimony released on the eve of his appearance Thursday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, former FBI director James B. Comey placed President Trump in the gunsights of a federal criminal investigation, laying out evidence sufficient for a case of obstruction of justice.” — Philip Allen Lacovara, former U.S. deputy solicitor general in the Justice Department, served as counsel to Watergate special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski

It’s not just Comey’s account of events that scream obstruction. Trump’s own words do him in.

The day after firing the FBI Director investigating his campaign’s ties to Russia, President Trump met with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak in the Oval Office. In that meeting, not only did he boast about highly classified intelligence, revealing the location of an Israeli-provided intelligence source critical to the fight against ISIS, Trump appeared to give confirmation that he fired James Comey in an attempt to end the Trump-Russia investigation. The New York Times reported:

“I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job,” Mr. Trump said, according to the document, which was read to The New York Times by an American official. “I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.”

Mr. Trump added, “I’m not under investigation.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov (Left), President Donald Trump (Middle), and Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak (Right) meeting in the Oval Office — May 10, 2017

Later that same week, President Trump made a public admission that he fired Comey because of the Trump-Russia investigation. See for yourself.

Rudy Giuliani further admitted this in May 2018:

The Washington Post also reported that in March, “President Trump asked him (Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats) if he could intervene with then-FBI Director James B. Comey to get the bureau to back off its focus on former national security adviser Michael Flynn in its Russia probe.”

To add even more to this, The New York Times reported that this past summer, President Trump forcefully asked top Senate Republicans — including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) — to quickly end their Trump-Russia probe.

And then…there’s this:

Not to mention the efforts to fire Mueller that I mentioned in the intro. And if you don’t believe what’s outlined above…listen to his own words.

The evidence appears to be there. With Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation moving full speed ahead and examining the circumstances surrounding James Comey’s firing, President Trump should be very nervous.

This month, a January 2018 memo from Trump’s legal team to Special Counsel Robert Mueller leaked. It made some troubling claims. Aside from claiming that the President of the United States cannot obstruct justice, Trump’s legal team admitted that Donald Trump Sr. personally dictated Trump Jr.’s initial misleading statement about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russian operatives. President Trump went on to openly declared himself above the law and questioned the constitutionality of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.

All of these claims are, of course, lies.

So why is the President doing this? As I mentioned in Unpresidented, this isn’t a legal strategy. It’s a PR play to convince his base that he is above the law. The strategy could be in an effort to protect the President in case Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report shows conclusive evidence that President Trump is guilty of obstruction of obstruction of justice. This way, even if Democrats win the House and Senate, and the House files articles of impeachment, they won’t be able to flip enough Republican Senators’ votes to successfully remove Trump from office because of the base’s blind support of him.

As the law currently stands, the Supreme Court hasn’t ruled that a president can be charged while in office. So, in order for Trump to be removed from office, he’d have to either be impeached or the 25th Amendment would have to be invoked. So if enough evidence were to be found to charge Trump, the fate of the rule of law would then be in the hands of Republican Congressmen…

Mueller is unlikely to indict President Trump directly and is reportedly very close to wrapping up his investigation into potential obstruction of justice, with all that’s left to be done is an interview with the president himself (he may have more evidence soon…). Mueller will then prepare a report on obstruction as well as one on the other aspects of his probe.

Mueller then hands the reports over to Rosenstein who then can release publicly and/or refer to Congress in the form of an impeachment referral. Regarding the report and Rosenstein’s obligations when it comes to handling the report, this is a great thread:

If there is a clear case to be made for obstruction of justice and a compelling case to be made for impeachment, will House Republicans do anything about it?

And better question yet, will Rosenstein and Mueller be able to even make that case? Another great thread on the order of succession and what would happen if Trump went full Saturday Night Massacre:

The Senate is currently moving on a bill that would give added protections to Mueller if he were to try and be fired, but it doesn’t go far enough to protect Rosenstein or put protections in place for Mueller if his replacement meddles in the probe.

The future is uncertain.

“Whether we shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people [to decide].” — Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox after being fired by President Richard Nixon (October 20, 1973)

This was adapted from a June, 2017 Rantt Media article.

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