Russia meeting revelation could trigger obstruction investigation

Politico reports: The new special counsel investigation into possible collusion between associates of President Donald Trump and Russia is just getting started — and it could take years to resolve.

But Trump’s Oval Office boast to Russian officials May 10 about why he fired FBI Director James Comey will almost certainly trigger a more immediate, and potentially perilous, legal development: an obstruction of justice investigation into whether the president intentionally engaged in a cover-up that warrants the filing of criminal charges, current and former Justice Department officials say.

Trump summarily terminated Comey one day earlier, just as it appeared that his FBI investigators were ramping up their investigation into the president’s associates — and possibly Trump himself. A day later, the president told Russian’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that, “I just fired the head of the F.B.I. He was crazy, a real nut job.”

“I faced great pressure because of Russia. That’s taken off. … I’m not under investigation,” Trump added, according to an official White House document summarizing the meeting, as reported Friday by the New York Times.

The Times said that the White House document containing Trump’s comments was based on notes taken from inside the Oval Office, and then “circulated as the official account of the meeting.”

Renato Mariotti, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Chicago, said special counsel Robert Mueller’s team of FBI investigators will home in Trump’s comments to the Russians, in part because there is reportedly an official White House document about it, and also because it appears to reference Trump’s possible intent in firing Comey.

To prove obstruction of justice, authorities must show that someone intentionally, or “corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, or impede the due and proper administration of the law” in an investigation or other proceeding.

Mariotti, who prosecuted many federal obstruction of justice case, said that according to Justice Department practice and protocol, FBI agents would be expected to move quickly to secure the White House document and any related forensic evidence that exists, including original notes and other work product used to create it.

“There is no question that the President’s comments as reported will be examined by the special counsel and his team, to determine whether or not the president had a corrupt intent in his dealings with Comey,” Mariotti said. “There is no such thing as a magic telescope into someone’s mind. So the very best evidence of a person’s intent are their own words and actions.” [Continue reading…]

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