The exact legal definition of President Trump’s attempts to shield himself from FBI scrutiny and Robert Mueller’s investigation have yet to be determined in a court, but the more that is revealed about Trump’s attempts to influence investigators, senators, staffers, heads of bureaus and of government agencies, it’s plain that Trump is violating the spirit of the law on obstruction of justice, if not officially the letter of the law—yet. On Thursday, we got more evidence of Trump’s attempts to influence the inquiry into his campaign’s ties to Russia from the New York Times.
Trump sent explicit directions to Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself in order to protect the president from the growing investigation:
President Trump gave firm instructions in March to the White House’s top lawyer: stop the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, from recusing himself in the Justice Department’s investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election… Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him.
Trump made repeated attempts to communicate with and influence FBI Director James Comey:
Among the other episodes, Mr. Trump described the Russia investigation as “fabricated and politically motivated” in a letter that he intended to send to the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, but that White House aides stopped him from sending.
The special counsel has received handwritten notes from Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, showing that Mr.Trump talked to Mr. Priebus about how he had called Mr. Comey to urge him to say publicly that he was not under investigation.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ office tried to find dirt on Comey:
The New York Times has also learned that four days before Mr. Comey was fired, one of Mr. Sessions’s aides asked a congressional staff member whether he had damaging information about Mr. Comey, part of an apparent effort to undermine the F.B.I. director… The attorney general wanted one negative article a day in the news media about Mr. Comey, according to a person with knowledge of the meeting.
A Trump spokesman quit after Trump’s Air Force One false statement about the nature of the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Russian representatives peddling dirt on Hillary Clinton:
A new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House,” by Michael Wolff, says that the president’s lawyers believed that the statement was “an explicit attempt to throw sand into the investigation’s gears,” and that it led one of Mr. Trump’s spokesmen to quit because he believed it was obstruction of justice.
There was also this little detail from the Times: “The president’s determination to fire Mr. Comey even led one White House lawyer to take the extraordinary step of misleading Mr. Trump about whether he had the authority to remove him.”