Speculations Arising From James Comey’s Testimony
Legal advisors have come up with valid questions about the propriety and legality of both Comey and President Trump’s conduct with regards to Russia’s intervention in the U.S. elections. Here are some of the most important questions and points that have been raised by them –
1. Is Comey right? If yes, then why did Donald obstruct justice?
A legal eagle states, “Insofar as Trump intended to shut down an ongoing valid investigation of possible wrongdoing by his close advisers — all of which should be clear to any objective observer — I think it amounts to obstruction of justice in both the legal and lay sense of the term,” said Peter Schuck, a professor at Yale Law School. “His constant calls and entreaties to Comey seem like efforts to intimidate and interfere, another element of obstruction of justice.”
Diverging on this point, an Attorney with Baker & Hostetler LLP in Washington, David B. Rivkin Jr. said,”Nothing that Comey said lays out an obstruction of justice case against President Trump. All of the things that Comey mentioned — the President asking Comey for loyalty, asking him to publicly confirm that Trump wasn’t a target of any FBI investigation, and calling Michael Flynn a good man and expressing hope that he wouldn’t be prosecuted — do not amount to obstruction of justice or any other violation of law.”
2. Could Comey’s act of leaking the transcripts of his conversation with President Trump be considered a criminal offense?
Actually, no. Experts say that the only way this would be considered a crime would be if the conversations had been classified. However, Comey clearly stated that nothing in their conversation had been confidential.
3. Did Trump have a Privileged Talk with Comey?
As far as reports and records tell us, Trump never mentioned having a candid talk with Comey. Mark Rozell, an expert on executive privilege and the Dean of the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University said, “It was incumbent upon Trump to make it clear to Comey that this is privileged and off-the-record, and ‘so let’s speak candidly here. As far as we know, President Trump never uttered those words and never established those parameters beforehand”
Further, he added, “executive privilege is not absolute. It’s not akin to attorney-client, doctor-patient, or spousal privileges. Courts balance the interests of secrecy versus the public’s interest in disclosure. ”
If, however, it was to be proven that the conversations did indeed contain confidential information, Rozell states that there aren’t any rules obstructing the conversations to be considered candid.
4. What actions should the FBI and Comey have taken if they knew Trump was obstructing justice?
Advisors and experts have also questioned whether the FBI should have reported a potential crime under legal duties when they knew of such things happening. Also, should Comey be passing on information and his own opinions to the Congress or the Attorney General with regards to his concerns about Trump? Experts say, No.
Former U.S. attorney Kendall Coffey expressed his views stating that there was no specific statute requiring a federal agent to report a potential crime, however adding that, “There is the oath of office that obligates agents to uphold and enforce the law, which is a more general obligation.”
5. On Trump alone – if Comey wasn’t confabbing, could the President violate other laws too?
Schuck says, “If Trump offered something of value for the purpose of inducing Comey not to do his duty, then yes.”
Per contra, another expert also says that Trump could potentially be cited with bribery if one argued that he “bribed” Comey with keeping his job in exchange for dropping the Flynn investigation.
6. Outcome of Trump’s obstruction of justice
As the President of the country, Trump cannot be criminally prosecuted for what he has done. There is only one thing which can be done, and that is – impeachment.
Although there are people who say the opposite, it would be up to Congress to decide if Trump’s conduct qualifies as “high crimes or misdemeanors.”
Image Source: The New Yorker