One of the public watchdog groups pursuing President Trump laid out a case Tuesday that he “likely” obstructed justice by trying to woo, then subsequently firing, former FBI Director James B. Comey.
While admitting they “do not yet know all the relevant facts,” the three men concluded that Mr. Trump did attempt to head off investigation into behavior by Trump campaign figures, which they said is also grounds for impeachment.
In a paper released by the Brookings Institution, the three men, who all work with liberal watchdog Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW), say Mr. Trump’s expressed “hope” that Mr. Comey could quickly end his investigation could be seen as illegal pressure, as could his defense of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
“President Trump cannot inoculate his February 14 statement to Director Comey to drop the investigation merely because it was prefaced with the word ‘hope’ or by suggesting it was vague or something short of a direct order. There is no formula or set of magic words that qualify statements as obstruction,” the three men say.
The authors are Norm Eisen, an Obama administration ethics official and chairman of the board at CREW; Noah Bookbinder, executive director at CREW; and Barry Berke, a prominent lawyer who is working for CREW.
Their 108-page report relies heavily on publicly reported news accounts and even the “Steele dossier,” a compilation of salacious information about Mr. Trump — some of which has been exposed as untrue, though the new report’s authors, citing CNN, say other parts have been substantiated.
The three men said their goal was to compile the vast amount of information about Mr. Trump’s behavior and compare it to the existing legal framework for obstruction of justice.
“The president’s alleged actions must be viewed in conjunction with one another and with the surrounding circumstances in mind,” the report says. “Together, they mirror typical obstruction behavior that many courts have held is the kind of conduct that Congress intended to criminalize when it enacted the obstruction statutes.”