Not long after Robert Mueller was appointed to be special counsel in the Trump-Russia matter, the acting director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, informed many of the top-level managers in the agency that they would more than likely be possible witnesses in the investigation of whether or not President Trump committed obstruction of justice.
While some legal observers have said it could be difficult to prove obstruction of justice against Trump, a senior law enforcement official told Vox that’s simply not true:
“What you are going to have is the potential for a powerful obstruction case. You are going to have the [former] FBI director testify, and then the acting director, the chief of staff to the FBI director, the FBI’s general counsel, and then others, one right after another. This has never been the word of Trump against what [James Comey] has had to say. This is more like the Federal Bureau of Investigation versus Donald Trump.”
Who would you choose in that showdown?
Who might be witnesses and asked to testify before the grand juries already impaneled in both Virginia and the District of Columbia? The list is likely to include:
McCabe himself; Jim Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff; James Baker, the general counsel of the FBI; David Bowdich, who as the FBI’s associate director is the agency’s third-highest official; and Carl Ghattas, the head of the FBI’s national security division; and a legal adviser to McCabe.
But the plot thickens from that point, because, according to Vox:
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and a third senior Justice Department official are believed by law enforcement officials to be crucial fact witnesses in the obstruction probe. Their testimony is likely to support Comey and harm Trump, according to investigators and outside experts.”
Slam Dunk For Mueller?
If, as James Comey testified under oath, Trump asked Comey to shut down the investigation of disgraced National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, that would indeed suggest that the president was attempting to obstruct justice.
Trump also made certain that he and Comey were alone at the dinner where he asked the FBI chief to pledge loyalty to him and Comey refused. That’s also a form of obstruction.
But to hear Trump defenders tell it, it’s just one man’s word against another’s. For example, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna Romney McDaniel told Fox News:
“We have to keep in mind that is one person’s record of what happened. The only two people who know what happened in these meeting are the president and James Comey.”
Not exactly. Because while Trump was ever so careful to assure that he was alone with Comey when he suggested ending the investigation, Comey regularly spoke to the six high-ranking FBI managers, often right after a distressing conversation with Trump about the Russia probe. And those conversations with his colleagues normally took place no more than 24 to 48 hours after meeting with the president.
There’s also the matter of Comey’s notes, which he made immediately after he met with Trump. Comey himself said under oath when he testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee that he took those notes because:
“I knew that there might come a day when I would need a record of what had happened, not just to defend myself but also to defend the FBI and our integrity as an institution and the independence of our investigative function. … [I]t was a combination of circumstances, subject matter, and the particular person.”
Those notes, along with the testimony of top managers in the FBI that Comey told about the times he met with President Trump, are strong evidence of obstruction. So while Trump and his allies may try to downplay the idea of such a charge, his attorneys know an excellent case could be made by a superior prosecutor, which is exactly what Robert Mueller is.
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