The first article of impeachment against Richard Nixon detailed presidential wrongdoing that was “in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice.”
That wrongdoing included “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force, and Congressional Committees.”
It is well established—among both Republicans and Democrats—that “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with” an FBI investigation constitutes an impeachable offense.
That’s what makes Thursday’s Senate Intelligence Committee testimony by James Comey so consequential. The former FBI director, who was removed from his post last month by President Trump, said, “I was fired in some way to change the way the Russia investigation was being conducted. That is a big deal.”
It’s an even bigger deal because of how he responded when California Senator Dianne Feinstein asked why he was fired.
Referencing Trump’s own statements, in an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt and in accounts of his May meeting with Russian diplomats, Comey replied: “I take the president at his word that I was fired because of the Russian investigation—something about the way I was conducting it, the president felt, created pressure on him that he wanted relieved.”
Trump’s allies will keep spinning “alternative facts” to try to defend their president. But there’s no debating the core message of the FBI director’s testimony. “Comey’s statement establishes obstruction of justice by Trump. Period,” said CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
California Congressman Adam Schiff, the former federal prosecutor who serves as the ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence said: “I think it’s hard to reach any other conclusion but that this is evidence of interference and obstruction.”
Another veteran prosecutor, Congressman Ted Lieu, tweeted: “On @ComeyDay, he laid out the facts for Obstruction & Abuse of Power. Fun fact: Those were the first two Articles of Impeachment for Nixon.”