New Lead on Trump’s Obstruction Of Justice

Ken AshfordTrump & Administration, White House SecrecyLeave a Comment

The New York Times has a story that might prove pivotal in any obstruction-of-justice case that Mueller may pursue against Trump:

The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has obtained a letter that President Trump and a top political aide drafted in the days before Mr. Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, which explains the president’s rationale for why he planned to dismiss the director.

The May letter had been met with opposition from Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, who believed that some of its contents were problematic, according to interviews with a dozen administration officials and others briefed on the matter.

Mr. McGahn successfully blocked the president from sending Mr. Comey the letter, which Mr. Trump had composed with Stephen Miller, one of the president’s top political advisers. A different letter, written by the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and focused on Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, was ultimately sent to the F.B.I. director on the day he was fired.

The contents of the original letter appears to provide the clearest rationale that Mr. Trump had for firing Mr. Comey. It is unclear how much of Mr. Trump’s rationale focuses on the Russia investigation, although Mr. Trump told aides at the time he was angry that Mr. Comey refused to publicly say that Mr. Trump himself was not under investigation. Mr. Comey later said in testimony to Congress that the president was not under investigation.

Guess we’ll have to wait to find out what is IN the letter.

This comes on an offensive by the Trump team (using the media) to discredit Comey, arguing that Comey had drafted a memo exonerating Hillary Clinton before finishing his investigation.  The source of this information is Senators Grassley and Graham, although it is unclear where they got that information.

If true, it appears that Comey — who did not personally lead the investigation into Clinton — began circulating drafts of his statement to the investigation team as early as May for their feedback. The reason: Everything they had told him was leading to the outcome that there was going to be no criminal finding.

That in itself is not very scandalous. Said an anonymous person familiar with the Clinton investigation:

The person said back in spring 2016, agents and Justice Department officials were talking about how the investigation would end and there was a belief that the evidence was going in a direction to not support bringing charges. This individual said by April 2016 the FBI had reviewed most of the evidence and didn’t find evidence suggesting that Clinton had violated federal law. The person said the FBI wanted to interview her but didn’t believe it was going to change the outcome.

So… Comey prepared a draft memo. Big deal.

Meanwhile, it has become clear that the “official” reason for firing Comey, the memo written by Rod Rosenstein, was clearly after-the-fact bullshit.