During a Fox NewsIn an interview over the weekend, Trump revealed that he fired James Comey (the former director of FBI) to stop his investigation into Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election.
Trump, who was speaking to Fox News’s Mark Levin about a forthcoming photo book detailing his time in the White House, discussed Comey’s firing in terms of how it had helped him personallyMany believe that the former president was admitting that he had obstructed justice by his actions.
“A lot of people say to me, how you survived is one of the most incredible things,” Trump told Levin.
“Don’t forget, I fired Comey,” he went on. “Had I not fired Comey, you might not be talking to me right now about a beautiful book about four years in the White House, and we’ll see about the future. If I didn’t fire Comey, they were looking to take down the president of the United States… I don’t think I could’ve survived if I didn’t fire him.”
Trump fired Comey, his FBI leadership role, just five months into his presidency. This was met with outrage. This eventually led to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointing Robert MuellerMueller to assume control of the investigation. Mueller concluded that Trump had been involved in at least 10 actions that could have been interpreted as obstructions to justice. including his firing of Comey.
Mueller did not recommend that Trump be charged by the Department of Justice (DOJ), as he was the former president. Falsely claim that he was exonerated. In May 2019, Mueller clarified his findings, saying, “If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.”
Several commentators noted that Trump’s words were an admission of wrongdoing, and warranted action from the DOJ going forward.
“Trump basically just admitted to obstruction of justice,” wrote Chris Williams, an editor for Above the Law. “I’m sure his lawyers are happy about this.”
“There are still six months left before the statute of limitations kicks in. [Trump] must be prosecuted,” wrote Sanho TreeFellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, an progressive think tank.
“Donald Trump has committed more crimes publicly and admitted to them publicly than anyone you have ever seen in this country and he just keeps coming out of hiding to admit to more because even he can’t believe how much he gets away with,” said Democratic strategist and consultant Adam Parkhomenko.
Trump was not liable for any of the 10 instances Mueller outlined in his eponymous Report. However, Trump did face obstruction charges later on, in the first of two impeachment proceedings. These charges were the result of his failure to cooperate — and his orders that his staff refuse to cooperate — with the investigation into his alleged attempts to coerce Ukrainian officials into helping him defeat Joe Biden in the 2020 election.
But even if Congress had impeached Trump for his obstruction regarding the Russia investigation or Comey’s firing, he could still be charged again now as a private citizen. While the Constitution doesn’t allow an individual to be charged twice for the same crime, impeachment can be a constitutional matter. a DOJ memo from 2000 concluded that former presidents can still be chargedfor the offenses they were impeached in office.
“The Constitution permits a former President to be criminally prosecuted for the same offenses for which he was impeached by the House and acquitted by the Senate while in office,” the memo noted.
In theory, then, it would be possible for Trump to be charged with any of the 10 examples of potentially obstructive actions he took during the Mueller/Russia investigation, including Comey’s firing and measures he took during the Ukraine scandal.