Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) ventured onto CNBC’s Squawk Box to discuss the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn with co-hosts Aaron Ross Sorkin and Joe Kernen. During the interview, the Minnesota Democrat said that he doesn’t believe that President Trump ordered former FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into Flynn. At the same time, he wants to know what really happened, adding that he trusts Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who has been tasked with leading the DOJ’s investigation in this matter, along with looking into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians during the 2016 election. Franken said that Mueller would determine if a crime had taken place, specifically whether the president obstructed justice, an impeachable offense, when he dismissed Comey earlier this month.
Kernen brought up Comey’s past testimony, where he said he didn’t face any opposition to the probe.
“Don’t you think if someone forcibly told you to go ahead, look, I’m ordering you to do this, he would have resigned, right? He would have had to,” Kernen asked.
“I don’t think he ordered him to do it,” Franken said.
To revisit what Comey said in prior testimony with Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), let’s head over to Guy:
Hirono: So, if the attorney general or senior officials at the Department of Justice opposes a specific investigation, can they halt that FBI investigation?
Comey: In theory, yes.
Hirono: Has it happened?
Comey: Not in my experience. Because it would be a big deal to tell the FBI to stop doing something without appropriate purpose. Often times they give us opinions that we don't see a case there, and so you ought to stop investing resources in it, but I'm talking about a situation where we were told to stop something for a political reason. That would be a very big deal. It's not happened in my experience.
Some say that the re-emergence of this back-and-forth -- coupled with Comey's successor asserting under oath that no political pressure has been brought to bear on the Russia probe (which was moving forward with ample resources prior to a Special Counsel taking the reins) -- vindicates President Trump. Not quite. Sen. Hirono asks specifically about interference from the Attorney General or high-level DOJ officials, prompting Comey's denial that any such thing had occurred "in his experience." His answer, therefore, does not necessarily cover pressure from anyone higher up the food chain within the administration. So, as asked and answered, the question does not preclude the possibility that Comey did experience what he believed to be an obstruction push from the president. Comey is a sharp and cautious lawyer, after all, who understands the wisdom in only answering the question with which he's confronted; no more, no less.
As Democrats lick their lips about possible impeachment over obstruction of justice, let’s not forget that former CIA Director John Brennan said President Trump hasn’t pressured the intelligence community to drop the Flynn investigation.
Flynn is under the microscope over his past interactions with the Russians. Comey drafted a memo about ways in which the president acted improperly in trying to influence an ongoing investigation. Fox News confirmed its existence and the House Oversight Committee has requested that it be turned over, along with any documents relating to communications between the president and Comey. The Senate Intelligence Committee has also made request for documents.