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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Did Mr. Trump Obstruct Justice? - The New York Times

By The Editorial Board, May 17th, 2017

“I hope you can let this go.”

Those are President Trump’s words, according to the former F.B.I. director, James Comey, and they should resound as an alarm to Congress and anyone concerned about protecting the Constitution. The president of the United States may have a lot of power, as Mr. Trump likes to remind us, but that power does not extend to obstructing a federal investigation.

That is precisely what Mr. Trump was trying to do, Mr. Comey feared. As was Mr. Comey’s standard practice, he recounted the remarks in a memo he wrote shortly after a private Oval Office meeting with Mr. Trump in February. He believed that the president was attempting to stifle the bureau’s investigation into Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser, who had resigned the day before amid public reports that he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence about his communications with the Russian ambassador.

The White House — whose credibility at this point is, like the president’s, in tatters — denied the allegations in Mr. Comey’s memo. But the memo’s existence, which was first reported Tuesday by The New York Times, is very bad news for an administration already suffocating itself in scandal.

Representative Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House oversight committee, was right Tuesday night to immediately demand all documents related to conversations between Mr. Comey and the president, including any recordings Mr. Trump may have secretly made. But other Republicans were once again struggling to look the other way. Richard Burr, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said the burden was on The Times to produce the memo. Perhaps he forgot his own committee’s authority to subpoena Mr. Comey’s memo, and his testimony.

Mr. Comey certainly has the free time to testify. Mr. Trump fired him last week, just as the bureau’s investigation into ties between the Trump campaign and the Russian government’s attempts to influence the outcome was heating up. After the White House tried to produce a coherent rationale for the president’s action that would distance it from the Russia investigation, the president himself made the connection explicit. In a television interview days later, Mr. Trump said his decision was based at least in part on his belief that “this Russia thing” was a “made-up story.”

Did Mr. Trump Obstruct Justice? - The New York Times

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