Comey: "Sure Looks Like" Trump Obstructed Justice; Would Be Charged and Prosecuted If Not President

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Former FBI Director James Comey said he believes if President Trump were not the president that Mueller's findings would produce obstruction of justice charges at a CNN town hall Thursday night.

"I think it's up to 800 former federal prosecutors who have worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations who have signed a statement saying that Mueller's findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump if he weren't president.  Do you agree?" CNN host Anderson Cooper asked Comey.





"Yeah, I agree," Comey responded.

"No doubt," he added. "Again, there's 10 different episodes.  I actually think the ones that would be most likely charged are not necessarily the ones that involved me, but particularly this McGahn episode and another episode where he was trying to get the attorney general to limit the investigation only to future elections, are examples that any reasonable prosecutor would charge."

UPDATE (11:00 PM ET 5/9) President Trump tweeted his response, "James Comey is a disgrace to the FBI & will go down as the worst Director in its long and once proud history. He brought the FBI down, almost all Republicans & Democrats thought he should be FIRED, but the FBI will regain greatness because of the great men & women who work there!" (see Tweet below)

Transcript, via CNN:

QUESTION:  Hi, Mr. Comey.  My question is, based on your firing and the attempted firing of other DOJ officials and the debate over whether or not this constitutes obstruction of justice, as a former prosecutor and FBI director, where do you think the line should be drawn between executive power and obstruction of justice?  

COMEY:  Well, hard to say in the abstract, except maybe this, that the president is not above the law and I don't accept the notion that because the president is the head of the executive branch he can't ever obstruct justice in connection with executive branch activities.  That's just crazy and a recipe for lawlessness.  

So the question is, did the president act in a way that manifested a corrupt intent, not the discharge of his constitutional duties, but a corrupt intent to interfere with an ongoing proceeding or to intimidate or tamper with a witness?  That's a factual question.  There is a whole lot of facts laid out in Bob Mueller's report that raise serious questions about whether there's a chargeable case for obstruction and witness tampering against this president.  

COOPER:  Do you think he had criminal intent, based on what you have seen now in the Mueller report?

COMEY:  It sure looks like he did in connection with a couple of episodes.  The direction to Don McGahn to get the special counsel fired is to my mind a flaming example of...

COOPER:  Of corrupt intent?  

COMEY:  Yes, of corrupt intent.  And I know even the attorney general has said, well, what the president meant was he wanted Don McGahn to convey his concerns.  Well, really?  Don McGahn went and called his lawyer, packed his office, and said he was going to quit.  I don't think that's the reaction of the White House counsel when it's about "conveying concerns."  

COOPER:  So in your opinion, there was corrupt intent, at least in several of those episodes by President Trump?  

COMEY:  It sure looks that way from the reports, factual recitation.  

COOPER:  If, you know, they're now -- what, I think it's up to 800 former federal prosecutors who have worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations who have signed a statement saying that Mueller's findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump if he weren't president.  Do you agree?  

COMEY:  Yeah, I agree.  

COOPER:  No doubt?  

COMEY:  No doubt.  Again, there's 10 different episodes.  I actually think the ones that would be most likely charged are not necessarily the ones that involved me, but particularly this McGahn episode and another episode where he was trying to get the attorney general to limit the investigation only to future elections, are examples that any reasonable prosecutor would charge.  

COOPER:  Mueller basically was operating and going by Department of Justice guidelines that a sitting president can't be indicted.  Was he right to do that?  

COMEY:  I don't know.  He was trying to as best -- I haven't talked to him, but reading his report...

COOPER:  But he "loves you." 

(LAUGHTER)

COMEY:  I keep forgetting that.  I can't wait to see all the pictures of us hugging and kissing.  

(LAUGHTER)

Because they're not in my iCloud account.  Maybe somebody else has them.  Send them if you have them.  The -- he was trying, I think, to do something principled and fair.  And I can tell you from personal experience, sometimes when you try to do that, people misunderstand you.  

He said, I can't indict the president because of Department of Justice policy.  And given that, it would be unfair to accuse him of a crime in a document when he can't vindicate himself through a trial.  So what I'll do is look at it and say, could I say there is nothing there, which I could clear him?  But if I can't say that, I ought to just lay out the facts for a future prosecutor -- it's often overlooked that he says that in the report -- so that a judgment can be made after he is president about whether to charge him, and so the Congress can discharge its duties.  

Now, the problem is, that's very nuanced and principled in an effort to be fair that the attorney general distorted with the way he described it and that confused a lot of people.  

COOPER:  Do you think he should be charged when he's out of office?  

COMEY:  I think...

COOPER:  Based on what Mueller has shown?  

COMEY:  Well, I think the Justice Department will have to take a serious look at that.  Whether it's a wise thing to do to a former president, I don't know, that's a harder question, a much bigger question than the facts of the case.  

COOPER:  But you think the evidence is there to prosecute?  

COMEY:  Sure looks like it's there, with respect to at least a couple of those episodes of obstruction.  


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