James Comey

  • October 12, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Barry H. Berke, co-chair, Litigation Department, Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel LLP; Noah Bookbinder, executive director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington; and Norman Eisen, Senior Fellow - Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution

    *This piece was originally published by The Brookings Institution.

    There are significant questions as to whether President Trump obstructed justice since taking office. We do not yet know all the relevant facts, and any final determination must await further investigation, including by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But as we demonstrate in a new paper, “Presidential obstruction of justice: The case of Donald J. Trump,” the public record contains substantial evidence that President Trump attempted to obstruct the investigations into Michael Flynn and Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election through various actions, including the termination of James Comey.

  • June 14, 2017
    Guest Post

    *This piece originally appeared on Zuckerman Law’s Whistleblower Protection Law Blog.

    by Jason Zuckerman, Whistleblower Advocate, Zuckerman Law

    For me, the most telling moment of former FBI Director Jim Comey’s June 8 testimony occurred early in the hearing, when Mr. Comey choked up as he recalled the White House’s publicly stating that the president had fired him because the “FBI was in disarray.”

    This emotional display seemed out of character for Mr. Comey. While U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, he successfully prosecuted organized crime. As Deputy Attorney General during the George W. Bush Administration, Mr. Comey refused to sign an extension of the warrantless domestic spying program and defied the White House Counsel and Chief of Staff. Mr. Comey can fairly be described as a “tough guy.” So how did he go from leading the most powerful law-enforcement agency worldwide to being labeled a “leaking liar”?

    To an experienced whistleblower advocate, Mr. Comey’s predicament is not surprising. Mr. Comey’s experience, unfortunately, is like those of many whistleblowers I have represented over more than a decade. President Trump promised to bring a business approach to government—and his retaliation against Mr. Comey is straight out of the corporate defense playbook. Corporations typically take the following steps of escalating retaliation to silence whistleblowers:

  • June 9, 2017

    by Dan Froomkin

    Special counsel Robert Mueller is now investigating whether Donald Trump's conduct toward former FBI Director James Comey constituted obstruction of justice.

    Comey made that pretty clear on Thursday during his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee. "I don't think it's for me to say whether the conversation I had with the president was an effort to obstruct," he said. "That's a conclusion I'm sure the special counsel will work towards to try and understand what the intention was there, and whether that's an offense."

    Asked again, Comey replied: "I don't know, that's Bob Mueller's job to sort that out."

    What is less clear is how enthusiastically Mueller, whose mandate is to investigate the wider issue of Russian interference with the 2016 presidential election, will explore that particular topic – and, if he reaches the conclusion that Trump did indeed obstruct justice, what he can do about it.

    On Friday afternoon at a press conference, Trump accused Comey of lying about their conversations and, in an unwitting endorsement of Mueller's investigation, said he would be "100 percent" willing to be deposed by Mueller under oath.

    "I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you," Trump said, raising the possibility that he could end up being accused of perjury as well as obstruction of justice.

    At the American Constitution Society (ACS) convention, running from Thursday through Saturday, top progressive lawyers said Trump's behavior certainly appears to constitute obstruction. They said they hope Mueller investigates Trump's conduct vigorously, with plenty of subpoenas and interviews.

    "I think certainly the role of the president in an effort to potentially obstruct the investigation is a critical part of any investigation about Russian efforts to influence the election," ACS President Caroline Fredrickson said.

  • June 7, 2017

    by Dan Froomkin

    At your dinner with President Trump on Jan. 27, did he ask you to pledge your loyalty to him? How did he phrase it? How did you interpret that request? Did he clarify? Did he ask you anything about the ongoing investigation into Russian interference with the election? Did he ask you if he or any of his campaign aides were under investigation? Did you feel like this was a job interview, with your job at stake?

    Your Feb. 14 meeting with Trump took place just a day after Michael Flynn was forced out his job as national security adviser for having lied about his contacts with Russian officials. According to media reports, you recall Trump telling you: “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” Did you interpret that as a request to end your investigation? Why? Did you feel like your job was at stake?

    Trump fired you on May 9. One day earlier, Sally Yates, who he had earlier fired as acting attorney general, made the first public indication that the FBI's counterintelligence investigation had in fact uncovered evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian intelligence. (Asked to rule it out at a Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing, she said instead: "My answer to that question would require me to reveal classified information.") Did you interpret your firing as an attempt to end the investigation, or punish you for not having stopped it? Why?

    These are just some of the essential questions members of the Senate Intelligence Committee need to ask former FBI Director James Comey on Thursday – unless, having already seen the memos he used to memorialize the conversations he had with Trump, they have even better ones.

    But these questions go directly to whether Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice.

  • May 24, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Dan Froomkin and Caroline Fredrickson

    Robert Mueller's appointment as a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department's investigation of Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election does not in any way preclude muscular congressional oversight into the matter.

    Nor does it give congressional witnesses carte blanche to duck questions they do not feel like answering in public.

    Within hours of the announcement about Mueller, Republican members of Congress started using his leadership of the investigation as an excuse to stand down.

    “You’ve got a special counsel who has prosecutorial powers now, and I think we in Congress have to be very careful not to interfere," Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) told reporters on Thursday. "Public access to this is probably going to be very limited now. It’s going to really limit what the public will know about this.”

    And one of several congressional witnesses-in-waiting cited Mueller as an excuse not to answer even basic questions from his ostensible congressional overseers. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who played a highly controversial role in Comey's firing, briefed Senate and House members last week -- in a closed session, despite the lack of any discussion of classified material.

    “Basically any question of any substance, it was, ‘I can’t comment because it may be the subject of an investigation by Mueller,’ ” Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told the New York Times.

    Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Teaxs) said in a statement that "the most frequent answer I heard to questions from members of either party was 'I cannot answer that question.' He declined to answer any question concerning his personal conduct, motivation, or the circumstances of the firing of FBI Director James Comey, indicating that even this could be within the scope of the Mueller investigation."