Bless their hearts, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee thought they had provided Donald Trump with the excuses he so desperately needed to spin his treason with Russia as nothing but a big misunderstanding when they issued their report in late April and shut down their investigation of the 2016 election, claiming the president had been exonerated.
Trump was so pleased by the efforts of chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and his GOP colleagues that he immediately cited the report during a press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, commenting:
“No collusion, which I knew anyway. No coordination, no nothing, it is a witch hunt. The report was very powerful, very strong. There was no coordination between the Trump campaign and Russian people.”
But what Trump conveniently neglected to mention is that the minority report written by Democrats on the committee not only suggests that Trump has obstructed justice, it also provides new evidence of that charge.
Ironically, the evidence came from former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, who was fired by Attorney General Jeff Sessions just days before he was about to retire from the agency and collect his pension. Trump had repeatedly called for McCabe to be fired, mainly because McCabe can corroborate former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony to Congress that Trump demanded a pledge of loyalty from him.
In his testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, McCabe brought up the issue of a strange phone call Trump made to Comey on April 11, 2017. As Ryan Goodman of Slate reports:
“Both Comey and McCabe interpreted one of the president’s phone calls as threatening Comey if he did not lift the cloud of the Russia investigation. In a phone conversation on April 11, the president said he wanted Comey to lift the cloud, ‘because I have been very loyal to you, very loyal; we had that thing you know,’ according to Comey’s written testimony and contemporaneous memo. But why would the president refer to his loyalty to Comey rather than Comey’s ‘honest loyalty’ to the president?
“McCabe testified that the FBI director and he ‘weren’t 100 percent sure what that was but interpreted it as ‘a veiled threat.'”
That testimony led the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) to have this exchange with McCabe:
SCHIFF: And in this case the veiled threat would be against Director Comey?
MCCABE: That’s correct.
SCHIFF: Along the lines of, I the president have been very loyal to you. I want you to lift the cloud. Otherwise I might be less loyal to you. Is that the—
MCCABE: That’s correct.
SCHIFF: That was the impression of Director Comey?
MCCABE: It was his and my impression.
A threat to get a desired outcome in a legal matter being investigated by the DOJ and FBI is the very definition of obstruction of justice. This is new evidence of just one instance in which Trump did indeed obstruct justice.
More damning for the president is this: If there was “no collusion” as he repeatedly contends, why did he need to obstruct justice in the first place?
Here’s a historical footnote to keep in mind: The articles of impeachment drawn up against both Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton had obstruction of justice as the first charge. It will also be on the articles that are drawn up against Donald Trump.