When President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in the midst of a federal investigation into his campaign’s possible ties to Russia, it drew speculation that he was afraid of what the probe might find. But, according to Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, the circumstances surrounding the firing itself might be worse.
A New York Times report says that at a dinner one week after Trump took office, the President asked for Comey’s allegiance, and Comey refused, only promising that he would always be honest with the Trump.
“That is, clearly, on its face, obstruction of justice,” Tribe told MSNBC Thursday night. “What it really means is, ‘Can I count on you not to make me a target of this investigation.'”
The White House has denied that story. Trump has, however, said that he asked Comey if he was under investigation, and Comey said no, he was not. But even that question, Tribe says, goes too far, since Trump was Comey’s boss.
“You’re basically saying, ‘If you will assure me that I’m not going to be under investigation, then maybe I’ll keep you on,'” Tribe said. “It’s essentially the language of bribery,” Tribe said.
Professor Tribe says that no matter which story you look at, it’s bad. The Times report alleges that the President was potentially looking to undermine the FBI Director’s independence and “attempting to suborn obstruction of justice,” or, even by Trump’s own account, he tried to obstruct justice by asking Comey if he was under investigation.
Either way, Tribe says, “this is a series of high crimes and misdemeanors all by itself,” referencing language used in the first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
[Image via MSNBC screengrab]