Friday 23 August 2019

Trump would face charges if he wasn't president - Comey

James Comey: Ex-FBI chief was fired by President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
James Comey: Ex-FBI chief was fired by President Donald Trump. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Chris Riotta

The former director of the FBI has said he believes Donald Trump would face charges for evidence laid out in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 election - were he not the president of the United States.

James Comey pointed to the numerous examples of possible obstruction of justice on the part of the president outlined in the special counsel's report, which described Russia's "sweeping and systematic" interference in the election that sent Mr Trump to the White House.

Protest: Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) urging the Congress to impeach Mr Trump. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Protest: Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) urging the Congress to impeach Mr Trump. Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

"There are a whole lot of facts in Bob Mueller's report that raise serious questions about whether there's a chargeable case for obstruction and witness tampering against this president," Mr Comey, who was fired by Mr Trump in 2017, said in a CNN town hall on Thursday night.

He then pointed to two key examples of the president's alleged obstruction of justice: when Mr Trump ordered former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire the special counsel, as well as when he attempted to severely limit the scope of the investigation into only future elections.

"The direction to Don McGahn to get the special counsel fired is to my mind a flaming example of corrupt intent," Mr Comey said.

According to the former FBI director, both instances serve as "examples that any reasonable prosecutor would charge".

His comments arrived as more than 800 former federal prosecutors signed a public letter that said Mr Trump would face charges over obstruction of justice throughout Mr Mueller's investigation were he not to have won the election.

Democrats on Capitol Hill have issued subpoenas for the unredacted Mueller report and its underlying evidence, meanwhile, as the president has attempted to invoke executive privilege after lawmakers moved to hold his attorney general in contempt of Congress for failing to supply the full report.

Mr Comey went on to say he believed it was possible the Russians had some form of leverage over the president.

"Do you think the Russians have leverage over President Trump?" CNN's Anderson Cooper asked the former FBI director.

"I don't know the answer to that," he responded.

"Think it's possible?" the reporter asked.

"Yes," Mr Comey immediately replied.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans who said Mr Trump should be impeached rose five percentage points to 45pc since mid-April, while more than half said multiple congressional probes of Mr Trump interfered with important government business, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Thursday.

The opinion poll, conducted on Monday, did not make clear whether investigation-fatigued Americans wanted House of Representatives Democrats to pull back on their probes or press forward aggressively and just get impeachment over with.

The question is an urgent one for Democratic leaders in the House, who are wrestling with whether to launch impeachment proceedings despite likely insurmountable opposition to it in the Republican-controlled Senate.

On Thursday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi re-emphasized that the leaders of the investigative committees in the Democratic-controlled House were taking a step-by-step approach. "This is very methodical, it's very constitution-based," Ms Pelosi said. "We won't go any faster than the facts take us, or any slower than the facts take us."

In addition to the 45pc pro-impeachment figure, the Monday poll found that 42pc of Americans said Mr Trump should not be impeached. The rest said they had no opinion.

In comparison, an April 18-19 survey found that 40pc of all Americans wanted to impeach Mr Trump.

The latest poll showed stronger support for impeachment among Democrats and independents.

It also showed that 57pc of adults agreed that continued investigations into Mr Trump would interfere with important government business. That included about half of all Democrats and three-quarters of all Republicans.

The poll also found that 32pc of respondents agreed that Congress treated the Mueller report fairly, while 47pc disagreed. (© Independent News Service)

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