Donald Trump
Credit: Michael Vadon/Flickr

The day after Trump fired James Comey, he met in the Oval Office with the Russian foreign minister and ambassador. In addition to leaking Israeli intelligence about ISIS, the president said, “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job. I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off.” The president made a prima facia case for obstruction of justice with his own words.

Of course, one day later the president told Lester Holt, “[Rosenstein] had made a recommendation. But regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to 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.”

That is why this story from the Washington Post should come as no surprise.

The obstruction-of-justice investigation of the president began days after Comey was fired on May 9, according to people familiar with the matter. Mueller’s office has now taken up that work, and the preliminary interviews scheduled with intelligence officials indicate his team is actively pursuing potential witnesses inside and outside the government.

Just as many construed from Comey testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the President of the United States is now the target of an investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. And even Trump’s aides are acknowledging that he did this to himself.

After the Washington Post report was published last night, someone leaked the RNC/Trump talking points for Republicans to discredit the story.  Here are the “top takeaways” along with my commentary:

*  There is no case for obstruction of justice. This point has been made by legal scholars from both sides of the aisle over and over again.

Later in the document they give examples of those “legal scholars from both sides of the aisle.” They specifically name Alan Dershowitz (I guess this is who passes for a liberal. Nuff said), Elizabeth Price Foley (a Republican/Libertarian who wrote a book defending the Tea Party) and Andrew McCarthy (who writes for the National Review).

They go on to make the case that firing Comey didn’t “change the course” of the investigation. But I doubt that obstruction of justice has to be effective in order to be prosecuted. Trump’s own words the day after the firing about how the pressure has been taken off speak to what he expected to happen.

* This story is nothing more than an example of even more leaks coming out of the FBI and special counsel’s office in an effort to undermine the president. The leaks are inexcusable, outrageous and illegal. The leaks are the only crime here.

The president’s team might want to be careful about a suggestion that the FBI and special counsel’s office are responsible for illegally leaking information. While not stating specifically who the leakers were, the Washington Post story indicates that their information probably came from those who were asked to be interviewed by the special counsel. In other words, it is more likely that they are members of the Trump administration.

* Why is no one investigating Attorney General Lynch’s Department of Justice for obstruction of justice in the Clinton email investigation?…There is compelling evidence to back up the claim that AG Lynch engaged in obstruction of justice, but none to show that President Trump did so.

This is a classic example of Trump’s pattern of lie, distract and blame. According to Comey, Lynch asked him to call the email investigation a “matter.” The suggestion here is that the word used to describe a probe is determinative. But I guess this lines up well with how Republicans tend to think. They are the ones that repeatedly said that ISIS can’t be defeated unless you use the right words to describe them.

* President Trump stated in an interview with Lester Holt that he knew firing Comey might lengthen the Russian investigation, but he did it anyways because it was the right thing to do. It was no way an effort to interfere.

This might be the best argument they have to make. The problem is that it contradicts the president’s own words on at least two other occasions.

* How much longer is this investigation/fishing expedition going to go on?

Robert Mueller was appointed Special Counsel four weeks ago. By way of comparison, Janet Reno appointed Robert Fisk to investigate Bill Clinton in January 1994. When he didn’t give Republicans what they wanted, they assigned the job to Ken Starr, who produced his final report in September 1998. Now that’s what you call a “fishing expedition.” This investigation has hardly begun.

Team Trump had better hope that these arguments are merely PR points to keep the president’s base of supporters in line rather than their actual legal strategy. Up against the level of expertise on the team Mueller is putting together, this defense would be laughable.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Follow Nancy on Twitter @Smartypants60.