How these seven words might genuinely get Donald Trump impeached
A memo from former FBI Director James Comey is looking very incriminating for the President
Here’s a sentence I’m sure you will be devastated to read: It’s really not looking good for Donald Trump.
“This Russia thing” (quote: Donald Trump) is day by day looking less like a “made-up story” (quote: Donald Trump) and more like genuine grounds for impeachment.
The latest revelations come from CNN and The New York Times, who report that Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey to drop his investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Flynn was being investigated as part of the intelligence effort to uncover the truth around any Russian attempt to influence the result of the election which saw Trump elected to the White House.
“I hope you can let this go”, Trump told Comey according to a memo the now fired FBI Director wrote in February, following a meeting about Flynn’s resignation and the Russia investigation. And those are the seven words that could end up getting Donald Trump impeached.
So exactly why is this looking so bad for Trump?
Well this is far from just some gaffe – it’s the strongest evidence we have seen so far that he has been trying to personally influence the FBI and Justice Department’s investigation into links between his associates and Russia.
The White House has come out with a strong denial that this memo is what Comey says it is – a request for Comey to put a stop to the investigation.
A statement made by an official to CNN reads: "While the President has repeatedly expressed his view that General (Michael) Flynn is a decent man who served and protected our country, the President has never asked Mr. Comey or anyone else to end any investigation, including any investigation involving General Flynn.
"The President has the utmost respect for our law enforcement agencies, and all investigations. This is not a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the President and Mr. Comey."
Essentially what they’re saying here then, is that Comey either got the wrong end of the stick in that conversation he had with the President, or that he deliberately lied about it.
The thing is, this memo was written immediately after the meeting – months before Trump made the decision to fire Comey – so what reason is there for him, in his role as FBI Director, to lie?
And also, the meeting between them was one-on-one, which makes it seem unlikely that Comey has simply totally failed to understand what Trump was trying to say to him.
Oh, and something else that looks very bad for Trump – the fact that this meeting between the pair was one-on-one at all. Trump asked both his Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to leave the room before he had this conversation with Comey. As CNN editor-at-large Chris Cillizza writes, why would Trump send them both away “unless [he] knew that what he was doing was extremely iffy – and wanted to avoid witnesses?”
OK, what happens next then?
Late last night, Representative Jason Chaffetz, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, demanded the FBI hand over all “memoranda, notes, summaries and recordings” of interactions between Trump and Comey.
Chaffetz said that these will “raise questions as to whether the President attempted to influence or impede” the investigation.
The big date to keep an eye on is exactly one week away – 24 May – that’s the deadline stated for these documents to be given over to the House committee.
After that, well, it will be up to them to decide whether it says what we think it does – that Trump has personally tried to impede an investigation into ties with Russia that may have helped him get elected.
And if the House decide that that is exactly what has happened, impeachment becomes a very strong possibility. The White House will have to provide hard proof that Comey was misinterpreting or lying in his memo.
If they can do that, well, this will go down as yet another giant political fireball Donald Trump has somehow managed to avoid. If not? He could be out of here.