Legal experts on both sides of the aisle say James Comey put himself in legal jeopardy and failed to pin obstruction of justice on President Donald Trump. In his testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Mr. Comey also admitted that he did in fact tell the President he was never under investigation over alleged “collusion” with Russia.
Liberal law professor Jonathan Turley said the testimony in the Comey hearing “actually helped Trump and his legal case,” adding that even if we accept his version of events he “did not describe a crime or an impeachable offense.”
“Comey also confirmed that Trump only expressed a “hope” that the Flynn investigation would end — a statement that Trump made repeatedly publicly,” Professor Turley commented in a response. “Again, however, having a duplicitous or dishonest nature is not an impeachable offense. Indeed, if that standard were applied in Washington generally, it would be a ghost town.”
Alan Dershowitz, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Law, was even less entertaining of the possibility there was something that amounted to obstruction of justice.
He said “the president has the authority to direct the FBI to stop investigating any individual.” Absent a bribe or indication of corruption, “the president can, in theory, decide who to investigate, who to stop investigating, who to prosecute and who not to prosecute.”
“The president is the head of the unified executive branch of government, and the Justice Department and the FBI work under him and he may order them to do what he wishes.”
He noted that presidents from “Adams to Jefferson, to Lincoln, to Roosevelt, to Kennedy, to Bush 1, and to Obama” have all directed the Justice Department to move forward or stop ongoing investigations. To question or criminalize these actions was actually more dangerous than the crimes they were falsely accusing the President of committing, he contends.
“Yet virtually every Democratic pundit, in their haste to ‘get’ President Trump, has willfully ignored these realities,” Professor Dershowitz added. “In doing so they have endangered our civil liberties and constitutional rights.”
Professor Dershowitz previously expressed grave concerns over the FBI and Senate’s handling of the Russia investigation. He opposes the Special Counsel on the basis that it is “backward” investigation, meaning it is starting with a target without any crime even being committed.
Mr. Dershowitz likened the inquiry to the words of Joseph Stalin’s secret police chief, Lavrentiy Beria: “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.”
Greg Jarrett, a former defense attorney who is now an anchor at Fox News, elaborated on the actual law, which is not only defined by the statute but also affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 2005 case of Arthur Anderson v. United States.
“James Comey’s public testimony exonerates President Trump of obstruction of justice. To put it simply, ‘hoping’ that something happens is not a crime,” Mr. Jarrett wrote. “The law demands much more than that. Felony obstruction requires that the person seeking to obstruct a law enforcement investigation act ‘corruptly.'”
“The statute specifically defines what that includes: threats, lies, bribes, destruction of documents, and altering or concealing evidence,” he added. “None of that is alleged by Comey.”
Further, legal experts say Mr. Comey put himself in legal jeopardy when he admitted he leaked government documents in the form of his memos with the explicit purpose of forcing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to appoint a Special Counsel. Worth noting, Robert Mueller, another former FBI director who was appointed as SC, is a personal friend and mentor to Mr. Comey.
He said he intentionally used a “friend” on the Columbia law faculty to leak his memos to the media. That “friend” is Columbia Law School Professor Daniel Richman, who specializes in criminal law and criminal procedure. On his faculty webpage, he is described as “currently an adviser to FBI Director James B. Comey.”
“The problem is that Comey’s description of his use of an FBI computer to create memoranda to file suggests that these are arguably government documents,” Professor Turley noted. “Assuming that the memos were not classified, there is 18 U.S.C. § 641 which makes it a crime to steal, sell, or convey ‘any record, voucher, money, or thing of value of the United States or of any department or agency thereof.’”
“I find Comey’s admission to be deeply troubling.”