On Friday, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with Bob Mueller’s investigation. We don’t know exactly what Flynn has against Trump or other senior members of the administration, mostly because ABC News fucked up their report and clouded what we thought we knew. The important thing here, however, is that Flynn lied to the FBI.
Enter Donald Trump:
I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies. It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 2, 2017
When he tweeted this — and it was definitely Donald Trump who tweeted it — he almost certainly had no idea that he’d just stepped in it. Here he is admitting that he knew that Flynn had lied to the FBI, something that Trump had heretofore not acknowledged having an awareness of when he fired Flynn.
The key here is that, if Trump knew, why did he wait two weeks before firing Michael Flynn? If Trump knew, why did he ask James Comey to lay off of Michael Flynn? (Recall that Comedy testified that Trump asked if he could see “his way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”) If he knew, why did he eventually fire James Comey?
As far as an obstruction of justice charge is concerned, that statement was damning as hell, which is exactly why Trump attempted to cover his ass with this tweet:
I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
Problem is, Trump admitted in a television interview that he fired Comey because of the Russian investigation. As far as obstruction goes, Mueller has got him dead to rights, which is exactly why Donald Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, quickly tried to take the fall for the original tweet, saying that he wrote it and it was sloppily worded.
For one, no one believes that. Second, it doesn’t really matter: What Trump tweets — whether he’s tweeting or an aide or lawyer is tweeting — constitutes an official public statement from the White House. So regardless of who wrote the tweet, Trump is on the hook, and he essentially admitted to obstruction of justice (and he didn’t help his case by attacking the FBI on several occasions this weekend).
That’s why this morning, Trump’s attorney decided to take an entirely new approach. From Axios:
The “President cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer under [the Constitution’s Article II] and has every right to express his view of any case,” Dowd claims.
Oh really?! Then why did the Articles of Impeachment drafted against Richard Nixon begin with an obstruction of justice charge?
I mean, look: Ultimately, charging the President won’t be a decision for Bob Mueller to make. It will be up to the House of Representatives. The House is controlled by the Republicans, for now. The Republicans have, for the most part, stood by their President, and if they wanted to hide behind Dowd’s defense, they could.
But Trump’s approval ratings continue to fall — he hit a new low of 33 percent on Friday, with a 62 percent disapproval rating. Once the tax plan is passed, I actually think it could fall even lower. For Republicans outside of the Deep South, Trump is toxic. If the GOP wanted to toss him out on his ass to save their seats, they might use the obstruction of justice charge to do so.
It’d be unusual: The House was Democratically controlled during Nixon’s second term, and Republican controlled when they impeached Clinton. I think Democrats would be smart to wait until the mid-terms before pushing for impeachment because no matter how unpopular Trump might be, there’s a real danger that trying to impeach Trump too early could blow back on the Democrats and even harm their ability to take back the House. Impeachment charges would likely rally Trump’s base — recall how badly it backfired on the GOP when they tried to drum Clinton out of office.
Point is: There’s a lot of evidence of obstruction here. If the Republican wants to save their asses, they can use it. And if they don’t and the Democrats take back the House, they can charge him with it in 2019.
Update: Trump may be laying the groundwork to pardon Flynn here, which would complicate matters even worse and probably hasten his fall.
TRUMP just now: "I feel badly for General Flynn…Hillary Clinton lied many times to the FBI and nothing happened to her…she lied many times, nothing happened to her. Flynn lied and they ruined his life. It's very unfair."— Natasha Bertrand (@NatashaBertrand) December 4, 2017
Here comes the pardon?