James Comey will testify that Donald Trump intended to interfere with the Russia investigation. His testimony will blow up the main defense that Republicans have been using that the President wasn’t trying to interfere with the investigation when he met with former FBI Director.
CNN reported, “Former FBI Director James Comey now believes that President Donald Trump was trying to influence his judgment about the Russia probe, a person familiar with his thinking says, but whether that influence amounts to obstruction of justice remains an open question.”
The political problem is worse for Trump and the Republicans than any potential legal questions. If Trump intended to interfere with the investigation, but his interference doesn’t meet the legal standard for obstruction of justice, it would add fuel to the perception that the President is guilty of abusing his power. If Democrats regain control of all or part of Congress, this behavior alone could trigger a major independent investigation. An investigation could find impeachable offenses.
Republicans have defended Trump’s behavior towards others in the past as the President just talking or blowing off steam. One defense attorney laid out the argument that Trump could make against an obstruction of justice charge to Politico, “Did Trump talk like this because he was actually trying to pressure Comey or was he just blowing off steam? ….If you look at the obstruction cases that are brought, they involve coercion, threats and bribes. I don’t think we’re there yet.”
Going back to the Access Hollywood tape, Republicans have always defended Trump as empty talk, but James Comey will testify that there were intentions behind the President’s conversations, and those intentions may have been criminal.
Republicans should brace themselves because James Comey looks ready to blow up one of their last remaining defenses of Trump.