President Trump “likely obstructed justice” when he fired FBI Director James Comey and could be impeached for it, according to a 108-page report by the liberal-leaning but well-regarded think tank Brookings Institution.
“Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction. Demanding the loyalty of an individual involved in an investigation, requesting that individual’s help to end the investigation, and then ultimately firing that person to accomplish that goal are the type of acts that have frequently resulted in obstruction convictions,” Brookings analysts Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norman Eisen wrote.
They noted that while the president has the legal authority to fire the FBI director, the intent and reasons behind doing so are what is important.
“The fact that the president has lawful authority to take a particular course of action does not immunize him if he takes that action with the unlawful intent of obstructing a proceeding for an improper purpose,” they wrote. “There is already evidence that his acts may have been done with an improper intent to prevent the investigation from uncovering damaging information about Trump, his campaign, his family, or his top aides.”
Should Mueller find that Trump did indeed obstruct justice, he either could refer the issue to Congress, as was done with the Nixon-Watergate scandal, or pursue an indictment against Trump and prosecute, according to the report.
The Brookings analysts also noted that articles of impeachment against former presidents Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton “show that obstruction, conspiracy, and conviction of a federal crime have previously been considered by Congress to be valid reasons to remove a duly elected president from office.”