Philip Allen Lacovara, a former U.S. deputy solicitor general in the Justice Department, served as counsel to Watergate special prosecutors Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski.
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.
Comey proved what Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Michael S. Rogers carefully avoided admitting in their testimony on Wednesday — that the president had specifically attempted to shut off at least a major piece of what Trump calls the “Russia thing,” the investigation into the misleading statements by fired national security adviser Michael Flynn concerning his role in dealings with the Russians. This kind of presidential intervention in a pending criminal investigation has not been seen, to my knowledge, since the days of Richard Nixon and Watergate.
Comey’s statement meticulously detailed a series of interventions by Trump soliciting his assistance in getting the criminal probe dropped. These details are red meat for a prosecutor. Presumably, the team of experienced criminal prosecutors that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has assembled will be following up on this crucial testimony, which rests on contemporaneous memorandums that Comey was sufficiently alarmed to prepare immediately after receiving the president’s requests.
That both Coats and Rogers denied that they “felt pressured” provides no comfort for the president’s position. The obstruction of justice statute prohibits not only successful interference with pending criminal investigations but also any use of “threats” to “endeavor” to obstruct an investigation. Thus, it is the attempt or objective that is criminal, and Coats and Rogers were apparently unable to deny that the president had solicited their interference in the pending FBI investigation. If Coats and Rogers did not yield to the endeavor, kudos for them, but that is no excuse for the president.
Moreover, Comey’s testimony also supplies the element of “threats.” He vividly describes a dinner with the president on Jan. 27, which the president surprisingly limited to just the two of them. The president asked Comey whether he liked his job and wanted to continue in it, even though, before the inauguration, the president had asked Comey to stay on the job, and Comey had eagerly accepted.
Leaving little doubt about the price of continued retention, the president twice, according to Comey, told him that he expected “loyalty” from Comey, just as he did from everyone else around him.
Head over to the WaPo to read the rest.
The schedule has been cleared and the popcorn readied at Evergreen Partners, a strategic communications firm in central New Jersey, where the rule for employees on Thursday morning is simple: No client talk while James B. Comey is speaking.
“We canceled meetings when we saw what time it was on,” said the firm’s president, Karen J. Kessler, who is planning a cheese-and-crackers spread by her office’s 60-inch screen. “It’s must-see TV.”
Americans do not agree on much these days. But millions are expected to pause on Thursday to take in a spectacle already being compared to other political-cultural touchstones, like the Army-McCarthy hearings and Anita Hill’s testimony about Clarence Thomas. This time, Mr. Comey, the former F.B.I. director, will dish to the Senate Intelligence Committee about President Trump, the man who fired him.
By the time details from Mr. Comey’s prepared remarks surfaced on Wednesday — revealing an anxious president pressing his F.B.I. director about a continuing investigation into his campaign’s contacts with Russia — the hearing had leapt from Beltway curiosity to required viewing, a cliffhanger episode of the nation’s real-life reality show.
C-Span, this is not. (Although C-Span will be covering it.) Every national broadcast network — along with an alphabet soup of cable stations from CNBC to HLN — plans to carry the 10 a.m. hearing live. Bars in Houston, San Francisco and Washington are opening early. Schoolteachers are remaking lesson plans to discuss the testimony instead.
Adding to the anticipation: Mr. Trump is expected to be among the viewers, and there is speculation that he may respond to Mr. Comey on Twitter in real-time — “Mystery Science Theater 3000” in the West Wing.
“They really should declare a national holiday,” said Sally Quinn, the journalist and the doyenne of Washington’s social circuit, “since no work is going to get done.”
But this is serious business, and here are a couple of links to serious discussions of Comey’s statement.
Benjamin Wittes at Lawfare: Initial Comments on James Comey’s Written Testimony.
Jack Goldsmith at Lawfare: Two Reflections on the Comey Statement.
I’m planning to watch the entire hearing and re-read the recent posts about it on the company website of North Shore Advisory Inc.. The cable networks have already begun their coverage. Even the broadcast networks are cancelling programming to show the Comey testimony, which begins at 10AM. Will Republicans continue to support Trump after this? Probably. But how much longer can they last before they accept the inevitable?
Please post your thoughts and any recommended links in the comment thread. And away we go!