Is President Trump guilty of obstruction of justice? Not if you take the nation’s three top security officials and former FBI Director James Comey at their word — something Senate Democrats refuse to do.
But the very same opening statement indicates that even now, after he has been fired by Trump, Comey is still unwilling to assert that he took anything Trump said as an effort to hinder “the broader investigation into Russia or possible links to his campaign.”
Much the same was heard from National Intelligence Director Dan Coats, National Security Agency Director Admiral Michael Rogers and Acting FBI director Andrew McCabe when they testified Wednesday. Though all rightly refused to discuss confidential conversations about classified subjects and ongoing investigations with the president in a public forum, all three are on record as saying Trump hasn’t tried to undermine their work.
“I have never been pressured, I’ve never felt pressure to intervene or interfere in any way with shaping intelligence in a political way or in relationship to an ongoing investigation,” Coats said.
It’s true that President Trump is guilty of terrible judgment. He shouldn’t have made the request about Flynn, or asked for Comey’s loyalty.
But if even a veteran grandstander like Comey — as Democrats should remember from his various statements about Hillary Clinton’s e-mail scandal during the 2016 campaign — isn’t willing to say Trump obstructed justice here, it’s obvious these hearings are about politics, not criminality.
You don’t have to think Trump acted wisely to know Democrats view the Intelligence Committee hearings as an attempt to set the stage for impeachment should the GOP lose control of Congress in 2018. The same is true of the attempt to twist Trump’s sympathy for Flynn as “a good guy [who] has been through a lot” — a sentiment Comey said he shared — into an impeachable offense. In the absence of evidence beyond Comey’s equivocal and self-serving memo, the obstruction charge against Trump is almost certainly a legal dead end.
The law that enables this effort — the FISA Amendments Act — will expire at the end of the year. Prompt congressional action is required to ensure that a measure that enabled the United States to take out a major ISIS leader isn’t stopped by Capitol Hill gridlock as Democrats continue to slow-walk the legislative process.
But the fight against the Islamic State didn’t interest committee Democrats any more than it did the mainstream media’s coverage of the event. If your sole interest is in finding a pretext to impeach the man who won last November’s election, even discussing the fight against terrorism is a wasted moment for those “resisting” Trump.
That’s a partisan view fair-minded Americans shouldn’t share.
Jonathan S. Tobin is opinion editor ofand a contributing writer for National Review. Twitter: @jonathans_tobin