Four Articles: Testimony Sharpens Attention On Questions of Obstruction Of Justice By Trump

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“Based only on what we know now in public, a reasonable prosecutor might bring this case against an ordinary person,” he said. “But a prudent prosecutor would want more facts before bringing this case against a president.”

The Justice Department has not said whether the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, is looking into any obstruction by Mr. Trump in addition to his mandate to examine Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and possible coordination by Trump campaign associates. But Mr. Comey said on Thursday that he had given his memos recounting conversations with Mr. Trump to Mr. Mueller, which would appear only to be relevant to an obstruction inquiry.

Julie O’Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor who now teaches white-collar criminal law at Georgetown University, said there may yet be more to learn from Mr. Flynn that could connect the Feb. 14 episode to the broader legal questions raised by the Russia investigation. If Mr. Trump did ask Mr. Comey to drop the Flynn case, she asked why he would do so.

“My supposition as a prosecutor would be that Flynn has something on the president,” she added. “You will recall that Flynn asked for immunity, saying that he has a story to tell. Perhaps the president believed that ending the investigation meant that Flynn would never tell that story. I assume investigators will be delving into this, as it is clearly relevant to whether the president acted with a corrupt intent in trying to derail the Flynn investigation.”

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For Trump, a Looming ‘Cloud’ Just Grew That Much Darker

WASHINGTON — Upset about the investigation into Russian interference in last year’s election, President Trump sought relief from James B. Comey, then the F.B.I. director. By Mr. Comey’s account, Mr. Trump asked him to help “lift the cloud.”

But thanks to Mr. Trump’s own actions, the cloud darkened considerably on Thursday and now seems likely to hover over his presidency for months, if not years, to come.

Rather than relieve the pressure, Mr. Trump’s decision to fire Mr. Comey has generated an even bigger political and legal threat. In his anger at Mr. Comey for refusing to publicly disclose that the president was not personally under investigation, legal experts said, Mr. Trump may have actually made himself the target of an investigation.

While delivered in calm, deliberate and unemotional terms, Mr. Comey’s testimony on Thursday was almost certainly the most damning j’accuse moment by a senior law enforcement official against a president in a generation. In a Capitol Hill hearing room, the astonishing tableau unfolded of a former F.B.I. director accusing the White House of “lies, plain and simple” and asserting that when the president suggested dropping an investigation into his former national security adviser, “I took it as a direction.”

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A Hero, Villain and Shakespearean Character Who Lived Up to the Hype

Mostly, though, attention rarely strayed from the witness chair, where Mr. Comey held his audience with an uncommon skill set for a veteran law enforcement official: a novelist’s instinct for narrative and, occasionally, levity.

He likened reporters to sea gulls on the beach. He used “fuzz” as a hard-to-track metaphor and quoted England’s Henry II.

He defended his credentials as a reader of people with: “I’ve had a lot of conversations with humans over the years.”

And he appeared inclined to win support among viewers, inside the building and out, with an implicit contrast in style to Mr. Trump, reaching often for notes of humility.

“Slightly cowardly,” he said of his own behavior in one interaction with Mr. Trump.

“I don’t want to make you — sound like I’m Captain Courageous,” he mustered later.

When Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, thanked him for coming, Mr. Comey reminded her that his employment status had opened up his calendar. “I’m between opportunities now,” he said.

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Comey’s Testimony Changed Everything — and Not in Trump’s Favor

Looking back years from now on Thursday’s testimony from former FBI director James B. Comey, we will likely see that it marked a turning point in President Trump’s drama. There was Before Comey and After Comey.

Before Comey, impeachment talk was not a real concern for Republicans. While they may still insist there is nothing to see here, Comey testimony’s turned impeachment into a serious topic of discussion. When you are debating whether an appalling course of conduct is illegal or “merely” impeachable, or whether it is as bad as the facts that led to Richard Nixon’s removal, the incumbent party is in deep trouble.

Before Comey, the 2018 elections might have been a referendum on the Trump agenda. After Comey, they surely will be a referendum on Trump, and specifically whether he should be impeached — unless, of course, Republicans decide to cut their losses and get rid of him before the midterms.

. . .

We may see other milestones and equally decisive moments before this is over. Certainly, any report or decision by the special counsel to file charges will dwarf what we have seen. For now, however, the course of the presidency, the nature of the Russia investigation and the ability of Republicans to defend a president who has been convincingly portrayed as a liar have dramatically shifted. There’s no unringing the alarm bells Comey sounded over the past two days.

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