Former FBI Director James Comey wouldn’t answer directly whether President Trump’s private comments to him amounted to an obstruction of justice or if an obstruction investigation is underway, prompting Republicans to play down the possibility of such a case against Trump.
“If the FBI director believes a crime is committed in his presence, he has to report it and do something about it. He did nothing about it, zero zip,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told reporters after the hearing, while pointing to Comey’s May 3 congressional testimony in which he denied receiving pressure from an attorney general or senior DOJ officials to stop an investigation.
Graham argued that if former FBI Director Robert Mueller, the Russia probe special counsel, was really looking into whether Trump’s remarks to Comey amounted to obstruction, Mueller wouldn’t have let him testify publicly in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee Thursday.
“If you think the special counsel believes there’s an obstruction of justice, he’s the biggest idiot in the world to let his chief witness to go through this. Mueller is not an idiot,” Graham said. “If he really believed he had an obstruction of justice case, would you let the only and best witness go through this?”
But elsewhere in his testimony, Comey didn’t shut down the possibility of an obstruction of justice investigation into Trump. Comey said that he had turned his copies of the memos he wrote about his Trump meetings over to Mueller, and said that it was “Bob Mueller’s job to sort” out whether Trump’s requests amount to obstruction.
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) told reporters Thursday afternoon that it wasn’t just Trump’s comments that qualified as obstruction, but rather that Trump went on to fire Comey. In his testimony, Comey cited Trump’s own public words as the basis for believing that Trump fired him due to the Russia investigation. He also said that the administration had “defame[d]” him in their justifications of his removal.
“I don’t think it’s the discussion that’s the obstruction,” Kaine said. “The discussion shows intent. I think when the special prosecutor looks at the obstruction, he’ll look at the firing.”