Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, says it is becoming increasingly clear that President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey represents an obstruction of justice — a case she believes special counsel Robert Mueller is now keenly focused on.
“I think what we’re beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice,” Feinstein said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “I think we see this in the indictments — the four indictments and pleas that have just taken place.”
On Friday, Trump’s former national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian officials. In October, former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his former business partner were indicted on a dozen charges, including conspiracy against the United States. The same day, the Justice Department also announced that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to making false statements to FBI agents about his contacts with Russians during the campaign. As part of their plea agreements, both Flynn and Papadopoulos said they would cooperate with Mueller’s investigation.
Feinstein also said she sees the obstruction case building by “the hyper-frenetic attitude of the White House — the comments every day, the continual tweets.”
“And I see it, most importantly, in what happened with the firing of Director Comey, and it is my belief that that is directly because he did not agree to lift the cloud of the Russia investigation,” Feinstein said. “That’s obstruction of justice.”
In June, Comey testified to the Senate Intelligence Committee that before his firing, Trump had told him, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
Comey did not and Trump fired him, which led to the appointment of Mueller to oversee the Russia investigation.
On Sunday, Trump claimed he never asked Comey to end the federal probe of Flynn.
“I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn,” Trump tweeted early Sunday. “Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!”
Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., the vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said on Sunday that he believes Comey’s word over Trump’s.
“I think he was very credible in his testimony and his private meetings with us,” Warner said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “And it’s not just Comey. You had, clearly, you had an attorney general [Jeff Sessions] who has had to recuse himself because of untold contacts with Russians. You had the president of the United States trying to intervene, as has been reported, with other national intelligence leaders, who he appointed, saying, ’Could you back off?’”
“This president has been obsessed with this investigation, always saying there’s nothing there,” Warner continued. “But each week another shoe drops, where we see more evidence of continuing outreach from Russians and some response from the Trump campaign and Trump individuals.”
On Saturday, Trump tweeted that he was forced to fire Flynn because Flynn “lied” to both Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI.
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
Trump’s tweet suggested he knew Flynn had lied to FBI investigators when Comey says Trump told him to go easy on Flynn. The suggestion lit up Twitter, with legal experts debating whether it represented a potential admission of obstruction of justice.
“If he knew that then, why didn’t he act on it earlier?” Warner said on CNN. “It raises a whole series of additional questions.”
Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, told ABC News that he drafted the president’s Saturday tweet about Flynn, and had done so in a “sloppy” manner.
Before reaching a plea agreement with Mueller, Flynn declined to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee, asserting his Fifth Amendment rights.
Feinstein dismissed the idea that the committee’s investigation would be slowed as a result, but doesn’t mind it taking a back seat to the special counsel’s.
“I think the investigation that really has the clout is Bob Mueller’s investigation,” she said. “He’s got all the tools he needs, investigative and legal, to do what he needs to do.”
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