James Comey says private Trump meeting is 'evidence of obstruction of justice'

World

Former FBI Director James Comey says that a one-on-one meeting between himself and Donald Trump early last year may show evidence that the president attempted to obstruct justice.

During his first interview since being fired by Mr Trump last year, Mr Comey recounted to ABC News a meeting in February 2017 when the president asked Vice President Mike Pence, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room so he could speak privately with the then-FBI director.

Mr Comey said that the president then brought up an investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had just been fired for lying to Mr Pence about contacts he had had with Russian officials.

“He’s a good guy, I hope you can let it go,” Mr Comey recalled the president as saying. Mr Comey said that he agreed he was a “good guy”.

Mr Comey continued to say he interpreted the exchange as the president asking him to “drop the criminal investigation of his, now former, national security adviser”.

When pressed on whether attempting to end a criminal investigation like that constituted “obstructing justice”, Mr Comey said it was possible.

“Possibly. I mean, it’s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice,” Mr Comey said.

Mr Comey is not the only person to have interpreted this interaction — which has been publicly discussed since contemporaneous memos written by the former FBI official were made available to the press — as potentially signifying an attempt at obstruction.

Jeffrey Toobin, CNN’s legal analyst, commented on the exchange saying he thinks that the incident shows more than just evidence.

“I don’t think it’s evidence of obstruction of justice. I think it is obstruction of justice,” Mr Toobin said. “There’s just no other way to describe what the president was doing, if comedy’s account of the conversation is correct. He is trying to stop an investigation of a subordinate in the Russia investigation.”

Reaction to Mr Comey’s interview — which marks the start of a publicity tour to promote a new memoir written by the former FBI chief — has been mixed. The Republican Party is attempting to undermine Mr Comey’s tour with an online campaign noting that Mr Comey once drew the ire of Democrats in 2016, when he bypassed traditional norms of behaviour to publicly discuss the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as secretary of State.

Mr Comey did not disclose the investigation into potential connections between Mr Trump’s campaign officials and the Russian government during the 2016 election period.

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