President Donald Trump’s interactions with former FBI Director James Comey do not rise to the level of obstruction of justice, Sen. Lindsey Graham said Thursday morning, and the actions of Comey and special prosecutor Robert Mueller prove it.
Comey, who was abruptly fired by Trump last month, is set to testify Thursday before the Senate Intelligence committee about his interactions with the president and whether or not the president sought to interfere with ongoing FBI investigations. In his opening statement, a copy of which was released last night, the former director is expected to testify that Trump asked for a pledge of loyalty and also pushed Comey to end the bureau’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
While some have suggested that Trump’s inquisitions about Flynn and the bureau’s larger Russia investigation constitute, Graham (R-S.C.), a former military lawyer and judge, said the sheer fact that Comey is being allowed to testify indicates that Robert Mueller, the special prosecutor appointed to lead an independent Russia investigation, does not believe the president obstructed justice.
“Unless Mueller is a complete idiot, which he is not, he’s concluded there’s no obstruction of justice case because if he had concluded otherwise, Comey wouldn’t be testifying,” Graham told “CBS This Morning” on Tuesday. “You wouldn’t let your chief and only witness go through this process if you really believed you had a case to prosecute.”
“Nobody in their right mind who believed they had a case would take their star witness would allow them to go before the nation and 20 senators,” he continued. “You just don’t do it that way. So he’s concluded, I think rightly, there’s no obstruction of justice. To think otherwise, really, is silly.”
Comey’s actions as FBI director, too, are indicative that he did not see the president’s questioning as obstructive, Graham said. If the FBI director truly believed that a crime had been committed, he would have reported it to the Department of Justice, pursued charges or resigned, the senator said. That Comey did not do any of those things is further evidence that the former FBI director did not see the president’s actions as criminal.
But while the president’s actions fall short of a criminal case in Graham’s estimation, the senator made clear that they were far from appropriate. One of the president’s more willing GOP critics, especially on issues related to Russia, Graham told the panel of CBS hosts that “Trump can’t collude with his own government, so I doubt if he’s colluding with the Russians.”
“Half of what Trump does is not okay. If you’re trying to convict him for being a bull in a China shop, crude and rude, you’d win,” he said. “A lot of this stuff troubles me, but it’s not a crime… The story described by Comey is disturbing. It was inappropriate by the president to put him in this situation.”