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.