Last night I wrote about the bombshells in the clips released from Trump’s interview with Lester Holt. To recap, the most significant being that the president admitted that, on three separate occasions, he asked the former FBI director if he was under investigation. That alone was jaw-dropping because it points to a possible obstruction of justice.
When the entire interview was released, it became even more so. Here is the significant exchange:
He [Rosenstein] made a recommendation, he’s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. The Democrats like him, the Republicans like him. He made a recommendation. But regardless of [the] recommendation, I was going to fire Comey. Knowing there was no good time do it!
And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”
The President of the United States just admitted on national television that, when he made the decision to fire Comey, he was was thinking about the Russia investigation and implied that he wanted to end it.
Meanwhile, the president isn’t the only one dropping bombshells. Friends of James Comey are starting to talk too. Michael Schmidt reports that a couple of them said that Trump invited Comey to a dinner in which he asked the FBI director for loyalty.
Only seven days after Donald J. Trump was sworn in as president, James B. Comey has told associates, the F.B.I. director was summoned to the White House for a one-on-one dinner with the new commander in chief…
As they ate, the president and Mr. Comey made small talk about the election and the crowd sizes at Mr. Trump’s rallies. The president then turned the conversation to whether Mr. Comey would pledge his loyalty to him.
Mr. Comey declined to make that pledge. Instead, Mr. Comey has recounted to others, he told Mr. Trump that he would always be honest with him, but that he was not “reliable” in the conventional political sense.
Trump referenced that dinner in his interview with Holt, saying he didn’t remember who initiated it, but claimed that Comey’s agenda was that he wanted to keep his job. It was over this dinner that Trump admits he asked the director whether or not he as under investigation.
One piece of timing related to that meeting is that Schmidt reports that it occurred on January 27th. If you remember from what I wrote about Sally Yates’ testimony on Monday, that correlates with her warnings to the White House about then-national security advisor Michael Flynn being compromised because of his lies about meetings with the Russian ambassador. Yates initially met with White House counsel Don McGahn on Thursday, January 26th and he requested another meeting, which was held on Friday, January 27th. Later that evening, the president was asking for loyalty from the FBI director and by Monday the 30th, the Acting Attorney General was fired.
As is often the case with this White House, both the president and his staff are saying things that conflict with and contradict what I have summarized so far. But I highlight these because we now have a president who:
- admitted asking the FBI director if he was under investigation
- tied the firing of the FBI director to the investigation of his campaign
- asked for loyalty from the FBI director the day after the White House learned that the national security advisor was compromised
Those public reports provide enough basis to expand the current investigation over whether or not the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to influence the 2016 election into one that is also about whether or not the President of the United States committed the crime of obstructing justice. We now have potential evidence of a case for impeachment. I don’t say that lightly. But we’ve crossed into that territory and it is time to say so.