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The 2-second answer that will come back to haunt Donald Trump

A question of intent.

CREDIT: Screenshot
CREDIT: Screenshot

Former FBI director James Comey is set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday. But on Wednesday, the committee released a written transcript of his opening statement.

Comey’s statement lays out in stark detail his interactions with Trump. Most notably, he describes Trump explicitly urging him to end the FBI investigation of Mike Flynn, who had recently resigned as his national security adviser.

The President then returned to the topic of Mike Flynn, saying, “He is a good guy and has been through a lot.” He repeated that Flynn hadn’t done anything wrong on his calls with the Russians, but had misled the Vice President. He then said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.” I replied only that “he is a good guy.”

This, according to numerous legal experts, could constitute obstruction of justice. A key part of the legal analysis is whether, when Trump asked Comey to end the Flynn investigation, he had an “improper purpose.” This involves proving the “defendants’ mental state when they committed the act.”

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One fact that suggests an “improper purpose” is that, prior to talking to Comey, Trump cleared the room of everyone — including Comey’s boss, Attorney General Jeff Sessions. (After this incident, Comey asked Sessions not to leave him alone with Trump ever again.)

Another problem for Trump occurred during a press conference in May. Trump was asked, “Did you at any time urge former FBI Director James Comey, in any way, shape or form, to close or to back down the investigation into Michael Flynn?”

Trump cut the reporter off: “No, no. Next question.”

This short answer is a big problem for Trump. If he didn’t believe that his conversation with Comey about Flynn was improper, why not come clean?

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In addition to a legal problem, Trump’s answer is also a political one. If Comey’s version of the events is accurate, he blatantly lied to the American people.