Former FBI Director James Comey said Thursday that “it sure looks like” President Donald Trump had criminal intent to commit obstruction of justice during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
At a CNN town hall in Washington, Anderson Cooper asked Comey whether, based on the redacted version of Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, he believed Trump had criminal intent to commit obstruction.
“It sure looks like he did, in connection with a couple episodes – the direction to (former White House counsel) Don McGahn to get the special counsel fired is to my mind a flaming example” of criminal intent, Comey said.
“The President is not above the law, and I don’t accept the notion that because the President is the head of the executive branch he can’t ever obstruct justice in connection with executive branch activities,” Comey said.
“That’s just crazy and a recipe for lawlessness,” the former FBI director said.
Comey’s appearance at the town hall marked exactly two years since Trump fired him. His dismissal ultimately led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller to continue the Russia investigation.
Mueller wrote in his report that he could not clear Trump of obstruction of justice. The report details numerous cases in which the President asked his aides to take actions that would have obstructed the investigation but states they were unsuccessful because the aides refused his orders.
The special counsel did not make a “traditional prosecutorial judgment” on the obstruction of justice question, Attorney General William Barr said in a news conference before the report was released. Barr said he and Rosenstein determined the evidence was “not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense.”
On Wednesday, Trump invoked blanket executive privilege over Mueller’s full report, escalating a looming constitutional confrontation over the report between his administration and congressional Democrats.