The Investigation Intensifies

The Investigation Intensifies

Corey Uhden, Politics Contributor

OPINION - It was inevitable, but the Washington Post has finally confirmed that President Trump is likely facing an investigation into a potential attempt at obstructing justice.

The bewildering chain of events that led to this moment began as early as January of this year. That is when, according to former FBI Director James Comey, Trump first sought assurances that he wasn’t the target of the FBI’s investigation of Russian hackers’ attempts to influence the 2016 election. Comey, mistakenly, offered him exactly that assurance despite the FBI Director’s understanding that any probe of the Trump campaign would inevitably consider the principal himself. In fact, that understanding convinced Comey to avoid making the same assurance to the public. Perhaps he remembers that he had to take the extraordinary measure of informing Congress that pertinent information from a related case had forced the FBI to reopen the investigation of Hillary Clinton’s emails just before election day. If Comey publicly cleared Trump of wrongdoing and later had to retract, his reputation and the reputation of the FBI could take another major hit. Instead, Comey pointedly announced on March 20th, that he had been authorized by the Department of Justice to confirm that the FBI, as part of its counterintelligence mission, is “investigating the Russian government's efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election” including “investigating the nature of any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.” Trump was reportedly furious, and Comey’s days were numbered.

When Comey’s firing came on May 9th, Trump included a curious note in his letter: “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I’m not under investigation.” As Dailywire columnist Ben Shapiro noted, that is likely all the proof one needs to reach the correct conclusion, that President Trump fired Director Comey because he hadn’t publicly cleared his name. It was fit of pique, not obstruction. But it still didn’t sit well with Comey, a Department of Justice veteran. Unbeknownst to Trump, Comey had kept memos detailing his encounters with the president and, when Comey saw that the president had threatened to reveal recordings of their conversations and told Russian emissaries that his firing had relieved some “pressure,” he conspired with an adviser to reveal the content of one memo and suggest that the president had inappropriately attempted to interfere with the bureau’s work.

The day after that report was published, the Department of Justice announced the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller, and now Trump’s days appear to be dwindling.

Comey’s public testimony has set off a cavalcade of competing political narratives. Trump’s personal lawyer, Mark Kasowitz, accused the former FBI Director of illegally leaking his memos. Following that, several of Trump’s allies outside the government, most notably former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy, have suggested that the president should dismiss Mueller for a conflict of interest. Trump himself reportedly considered it but aides talked him out of it. Mueller’s assembly of a  “dream team” to thoroughly pour through every facet of this investigation has been met with cheers from the president’s critics and denunciations of “the deep state” from some of his allies. The result is what Dilbert creator Scott Adams has called “a soup” of murky details spiced up with a scurrilous accusations of political malfeasance. Many of them, including Trump himself, point to Hillary Clinton and former Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s behavior in 2016 but that is pure deflection. What Trump’s defenders refuse to acknowledge is that this is a very real legal problem, and a problem entirely of his own creation.

“You [Mr. Trump] may be the first president in history to go down because you can't stop inappropriately talking about an investigation that if you just were quiet, would clear you.” - Sen. Lindsey Graham

Michael Flynn’s legal problems were not Donald Trump’s. Trump wasn’t under investigation, a big revelation from Comey’s hearing as well. Even telling the FBI Director “I hope you can let this go” of Flynn’s investigation wasn’t illegal, if improper. Firing the FBI Director afterwards was improper as well, but there could have been an innocent explanation. After Comey’s testimony, and 36 other interviews the Senate Intelligence Committee has conducted, it appears as if an investigation into collusion had begun to subside. Instead, the special counsel is set to interview multiple intelligence community officials to determine if President Trump has attempted to lean on them to obstruct the investigation. For his part, Trump is calling the investigation a “witch hunt” led by “very bad and conflicted people,” but the accused witches of Salem didn’t call attention to their bizarre behavior themselves. In this case, Trump even lit the kindling beneath his feet.

You can follow the author on Twitter @CACoreyU

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