Without additional commentary.
Pretty much no one emerged a ‘winner’ from today’s Senate Intelligence Committee hearing other than perhaps Andrew McCabe. From the mainstream media to Trump to Congressional Democrats, pretty much all of the narratives surrounding the FBI’s Russia investigation and Comey’s sudden dismissal were succinctly obliterated by McCabe’s testimony.
… Rubio: “Has the dismissal of Mr. Comey in any way impeded, interrupted, stopped, or negatively impacted any of the work, any of the investigations or any ongoing projects at the Federal Bureau of Investigation?”
McCabe: “There has been no effort to impede our investigation to date.”
…Senator Lankford: “Is it your impression at this point that the FBI is unable to complete the investigation in a fair and expeditious way because of the removal of Jim Comey?”
McCabe: “Is is my opinion and belief that the FBI will continue to pursue this investigation vigorously and completely.”
Senator Lankford: “Do you need someone to take this away from you and somebody else to do it?”
… Senator: “Can you confirm that that request [funding request for Russia probe] was, in fact, made?”
McCabe: “I can not confirm that request was made.
As you know, when we need resources, we make those requests here. So, I’m not aware of that request and it’s not consistent with my understanding of how we request additional resources.
That said, we don’t typically request resources for an individual case. And, as I mentioned, I strongly believe that the Russia investigation is adequately resourced.”
… First, on Trump’s assertion that Comey confirmed on three separate occasions that he was not the subject of an ongoing FBI investigation, McCabe implied that such a confirmation would be highly unusual.
Then on whether the Russia investigation was “one of the smallest things on the plate of the FBI”, as suggested by the White House, McCabe said the FBI considers the Russia probe to be a “highly significant investigation.”
That said, McCabe did confirm for the first time publicly that Comey’s decision to not pursue charges against Hillary Clinton did result in some “frustration” among certain agents who were “very vocal about their concerns.”
“I think morale’s always been good, but there were folks within our agency that were frustrated with the outcome of the Hillary Clinton case and some of those folks were very vocal about those concerns.”
But perhaps nothing from the hearing today was more damaging to the White House’s narrative than Trump’s own words. As we noted earlier, after repeatedly saying the Comey was fired based solely on the recommendation of AG Sessions and Deputy AG Rosenstein, Trump today told Lester Holt that he planned to fire Comey all along.
Several Democrats and liberal activists raised the prospect of impeachment, but most lawmakers set their sights lower, saying they wanted to at least preserve and protect the ongoing FBI probe into Trump campaign figures’ dealings with Russia.
…Democrats flexed a rarely used rule to shut down most committee business, canceling work on cybersecurity, border security and oversight of the Veterans Affairs Department’s efforts to improve its services.
Sen. Richard J. Durbin, Illinois Democrat, linked the shutdown to “the decision last night by the president of the United States to terminate the director of the FBI.”
Later in the day, Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, said he would block the nominee to head anti-terrorism efforts at the Treasury Department until the Trump administration turns over information on Russia and any financial dealings with the president and his associates.
In the House, a couple of Democrats raised the specter of impeachment. Rep. Al Green, Texas Democrat, told a local radio station that impeachment would be appropriate if Mr. Comey’s firing was traced to Russia.
A White House spokeswoman said Mr. Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions approached Mr. Trump on Monday and recommended the firing, and the president told them to write out their justification. Those memos were filed Tuesday, and Mr. Trump then sent a termination letter to Mr. Comey.
Lawfare blog supplies us with the persuasive analysis:
Under 18 U.S.C. § 1505, a felony offense is committed by anyone who “corruptly, or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication influences, obstructs, or impedes or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law under which any pending proceeding is being had before any department or agency of the United States, or the due and proper exercise of the power of inquiry under which any inquiry or investigation in being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress.”
An accompanying code section, 18 U.S.C. § 1515(b), defines “corruptly” as “acting with an improper purpose, personally or by influencing another, including making a false or misleading statement, or withholding, concealing, altering, or destroying a document or other information” (emphasis added). This is where obstruction of justice intersects with the false statements law. If you knowingly and willfully make a false statement of material fact in a federal government proceeding, you’ve potentially violated § 1001, and when you add an objective to influence, obstruct, or impede an investigation, you’ve now possibly violated § 1505 as well. Perjury can intersect with obstruction of justice in the same way.
Under the statute, a “proceeding” can be an investigation. Section 1503 criminalizes the same conduct in judicial proceedings. So obstruction during an investigation might violate § 1505, while if that same investigation leads to a criminal prosecution, obstruction during the prosecution itself would violate § 1503. The individual also has to know that a proceeding is happening in order to violate the statute, and must have the intent to obstruct—that is, act with the purpose of obstructing, even if they don’t succeed.
Pocan said he had thought Democrats in the House of Representatives needed to use the threat of impeachment as a “tool” to make the administration follow the law.
“I would argue this has got to still be on the table as an option, especially if, indeed, there was obstruction of justice by the firing of the FBI director,” said Pocan, first vice chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.