James Comey’s public testimony exonerates President Trump of obstruction of justice.
To put it simply, “hoping” that something happens is not a crime. The law demands much more than that. Felony obstruction requires that the person seeking to obstruct a law enforcement investigation act “corruptly.” The statute specifically defines what that includes: threats, lies, bribes, destruction of documents, and altering or concealing evidence. None of that is alleged by Comey.
Instead, the fired FBI Director recounts how President Trump expressed compassion for the man he dismissed as his National Security Adviser, calling Michael Flynn “a good guy” who “has been through a lot.” Comey agreed. Then the president said, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
The president’s statement is not an order or mandate. It is not even a “request,” though Comey insists he understood it to be. But even if we construe it as such, it is not enough to constitute obstruction. Not even close. There must be a “corrupt” act that accompanies the directive.
For example, if the president had said, “Bury whatever incriminating evidence you have, exonerate Flynn, and terminate the investigation of him entirely… or I will fire you.” That is, arguably, obstruction. It includes two corrupt elements –a threat and concealing evidence. However, this is not what happened.
Comey knows all this. Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, posed the key question: “Do you know of any case in which someone has been charged with obstruction based on the word ‘hope’?” Comey answered, “I don’t.” On that point, Comey is correct.