White House Claims “Many Legal Scholars” See No Conflict In President Asking Comey If He Is Under Investigation

Sarah-Huckabee-Sanders-2017-05-05-cropWhite House principal deputy press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders assured the media yesterday that there was nothing inappropriate with President Donald Trump asking former FBI Director James Comey if he was a target of the ongoing investigation over Russian influence or collusion in the presidential election.  She insisted that the White House had reached out to legal experts and “several legal scholars who have weighed in on it and said there’s nothing wrong with it.”  She also said that “many legal scholars and others that have been commenting on it for the last hour.”  While I cannot speak for all legal scholars, I find it surprising that the White House could find “several” who would sign off on such an inquiry.  It was clearly improper for Trump to ask the question and it would have been equally improper for Comey to answer in this fashion.

To make matters worse, Sanders said that, by removing Comey, the White House hoped to bring the investigation to a sooner conclusion. In her defense, I took her comment as meaning that the White House has nothing to fear from the investigation and wants it to come to a conclusion: “We want this to come to its conclusion, we want it to come to its conclusion with integrity. And we think that we’ve actually, by removing Director Comey, taken steps to make that happen.” However, it was another uniquely ham-handed treatment of the controversy from a White House that continues to struggle with maintaining a single coherent message.  The overwhelming thrust of the coverage of the Comey termination was that it was meant to bring an end to the Russian investigation.  To connect the firing of Comey with the hope for a faster conclusion to the investigation is incredibly daft.

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedThe issue came up after an interview of Trump with “NBC Nightly News” on Thursday.  Trump said he asked ousted Director James Comey three times once over dinner and twice on the phone to confirm that he was not a target or under investigation by the FBI.  To make matters worse, Trump said that Comey asked for a private dinner in an effort to keep his job.  (Trump later said that he “thought” the dinner was Comey’s idea).   Trump portrayed Comey as campaigning to keep his job at the very dinner that the President decided to ask him for an assurance that he was not a target of the investigation. Trump told Lester Holt:

“He wanted to have dinner because he wanted to stay on…he wanted to stay on as the FBI head. And I said I’ll, you know, consider and we’ll see what happens. And at that time he told me you are not under investigation.”

If Comey did give these assurances, he is not the professional that I have long taken him for.  There is no way to know where this investigation will go.  I have publicly criticized over-wrought coverage suggesting that Comey was fired because the investigation was “getting too close” to Trump.  Indeed, I have repeatedly asked for precisely the crime that is being investigated other than reporting/registration violations by people like Flynn (which are rarely prosecuted).  However, the FBI is still investigating claims of collusion and influence peddling.  There have also allegations tied to Russian financial interests connected to Trump and his companies.

440px-Comey-FBI-PortraitNow back to those “several legal experts.”  There is nothing criminal in such an inquiry, though that should not be the test of appropriate presidential conduct.  There is ample ethical problems with a president making such an inquiry. There are a host of rules and protocols insulating the FBI from White House interference and inquiries.  That is the case for general communications. It is even more important when the president himself is at risk.  After all, there have been demands for a special counsel for months.  When you add that Trump knew Comey was actively trying to convince him to retain him as Director, the conflict becomes obvious and overwhelming.

The Justice Department has long limited direct conversations between a president and the FBI on matters involving the president.  Under a 2009 directive, only the Attorney General or Deputy Attorney General communicated with the White House directly and not the FBI Director absent special circumstances.  While this is not an iron clad rule, it reflects the focus on protecting the FBI from allegations of political influence. It did not help matters for Trump to say that he fired Comey to guarantee that the investigation is “done properly.” A President does not dictate the proper way of investigating people around him. Moreover, no one has suggested that Comey had done anything to hinder or harm the Russian investigation.

The irony is that the White House claimed that Comey was fired because of his press conference on the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton.  Many agreed that Comey violated long-standing rules in discussing the evidence against Clinton.  The point is that a director should not give inside information or progress reports on investigations.  Yet, that is precisely what was asked from Comey when the President wanted confirmation that he was not a target of the FBI investigation.

There was an obvious conflict of interest in the conversation described by President Trump.  It is not clear if Comey will confirm that he gave these assurances to the President.  Ironically, if he did, we would no longer have to debate whether Comey warranted termination.

 

 

134 thoughts on “White House Claims “Many Legal Scholars” See No Conflict In President Asking Comey If He Is Under Investigation

  1. Also, for those who were elsewhere on this blog discussing recording conversations in the Oval Office….

    “Former White House staffer Ben Rhodes told author Mark Bowden — whose tape recorder died during his interview of Obama — “Ah don’t worry about it. We record everything in here. We’ll get you a transcript before you leave.” And they did.

    http://twitchy.com/gregp-3534/2017/05/12/question-for-ben-rhodes-how-many-oval-office-conversations-did-obama-tape/

  2. Totally off topic but I need to vent. I just listened to part of Obama’s key note speech that he gave in Italy that he was paid a couple million $$ for. Everytime I think I can’t stand this fraud more than I already do, he proves me wrong. Unfortunately he’s going to be making trouble for a long time to come. God help us.

  3. I wonder who these “many legal scholars” are? Do they constitute an unbiased sampling of the legal community? What if there are many more legal scholars who DO see a legal conflict?

  4. What did Bill Clinton ask or tell Loretta Lynch on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport?

    It’s possible that Comey answering the question as to ongoing investigations is the de facto “crime.”

    Prof. Turley, would you please cite the passage in the Constitution or U.S.C. wherein the President is precluded from posing a question to any party.

    Would you please cite the passage in the Constitution or U.S.C. wherein the Director of the FBI is precluded from answering a question.

    • They talked about grandchildren. What? You think there was something else going on other than innocent chit chat? I said in a post on another topic on this blog that Bill Clinton never relished the idea of moving back into the White House only to play second fiddle to his wife who has ridden his coattails to power for her entire career. Bill Clinton didn’t want to be under the 24/7 media scrutiny that comes with being married to the President. He likes his life just fine the way it is. So how do I know for sure? Because Bubba made a decision to go meet with Loretta Lynch on her airplane on the tarmac that day. And that meeting changed the course of Hillary’s campaign. Whether this was consciously or subconciously done, by that one decision to step onto the Attorney General’s plane, Bubba sabotaged Hillary yet again. And I thank him every day for sparing the country the disaster of a Hillary Clinton presidency. And for those who think Trump is a disaster, don’t forget the recent poll that found something like 96% of all Trump voters would vote for him again which would actually give him the popular vote as well.

      • I do believe Comey did a service to this country by detailing Hillary & Co. crimes. Say what you want, but President Trump is so much better than President Hillary. While watching the President I’m amazed at his pace. He is after all not young. He always waves if there are people nearby. That says to me his Presidency is truly about the people and country who’ve had a tough 8 years. Which of the 17 Republicans would be better? Nobody. I’m ashamed of the media. Fallon and Colbert are a step lower in that disgust. Millions are struggling with Ocare. The people were denied a media to tell the truth about the bill. Or about the lies “keeping your doctor and plan”. But everyone was afraid to criticize our first black President. If white he would never have been reelected. But that is now history. We need jobs for half the country out of work. We need to dump Ocare or find corrections to an incredibly bad deal. So, root for this man’s success. This country needs fixing. I wish him all the best.

  5. I am never amazed at the stupidity of reporters. Would we had the days of true journalism. So let’s look at two examples

    1. The taping comment by President Trump referred to tapes made or not made by Comey. Suddenly it becomes just the opposite. But is there are taping system in the Oval Office? Of course. And there are Secret Service agents monitoring that or any room the President is at all times. Would they tape? Of course. Any subsequent required action would be the subject of an intensive report at the very least. But then we weren’t talking about the Oval Office taping, the comment referred to Comey and the possibility of his tapinig any one, any where in any situation and retaining them for any use in light of the five year rule. So much for that waste of news time. KISS once again provided the right answer to this, since Nixon, non-news.

    2. Now let’s examine the loyalty tweet. Here’s a copy of what Ethics office put out

    The Office of Government Ethics tweeted on Friday a reference to “loyalty to the Constitution” following reports that President Donald Trump asked former FBI Director James Comey for his loyalty.

    “Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain,” read the tweet, sent at 12:36 p.m.

    pic.twitter.com/Cdmlta2ecl

    Here’s my comment. How could any one in the Democrat/socialist/liberal/progressive party who has taken an Oath of Office not be in violation in view of their parties loyalty to a foreign ideology? First example. The constant use of ‘Our Democracy’ in a country that has no such system but is a Constitutional Republic. I

    Is there are there democratic ideals involved in a Repubiic? Of course at it’s very roots but once it goes representative be it town Mayor or national President AND the citizens release control to higher level of government it ceases to be a Democracy and becomes a Republic. Thus 31 States are immediately NOT a Democracy and 19 which have recall are only to the extent their recall powers reach. So they go from Democracy immediatley to Representative Democracy and then to Representative Constitutional Republic. whose center is always The Constitution.

    Now examine the roots of the two different systems. One goes back almost 2500 years to Plato who called for such a system as every citizen voting on everything at all times with a one man ruler no enfranchised citizens and then repudiated the entire idea with one sentence. “My fellow Greeks are too independent and would never stand for a dictatorship.” That line of thought however minus the repudiation went from Plato to Kant Hegel, Marx, Engels who developed Socialism through Lenin and In an offshoot of Lenin’s Internationale Socialism to Mussolini and Hitler who developed and implemented National Socialism.

    Which is what we see daily when we look at or listen to comments from DNC etc. or consider their establishment of a new CENTER as the center of their left.

    Back to the second system. Representative Constitutional Republic it was invented and put into practice for the first time with full citizens powers as the ‘ultimate source of power’ 1770s to 1780’s.

    Yet with the advent of progressivism from 1898 on and starting with Wilson, Roosevelt, Johnson etc. we’ve seen a constant erosion of citizens as the ulitmate source of power. Incrementally

    But I repeat. the left is more loyal in their words, actions, and deeds to the 1st system I described which automatically means they have broken their oath of citizenship and their oath of office.

    Thanks to the Ethics Office for pointing that out

  6. After reading the comments of today from this blog, I’ll only ask my fellow American citizens one thing, please stop acting like a cult and start acting like citizens of the United States. How far are you willing to let Trump take this country down the road he has set? Your reasons are becoming more to protect yourselves than the country. Your belief of Trump has overtaken all reason of what is true and right. Please listen to what is being said about this man. I’m old enough to remember what Nixon, Johnson, Reagan, George W and Obama did or didn’t do to split this country in two. If we continue this way lets pack it in and call it quits.

    • Under Trump presidency so far…..consumer confidence is at record highs, lowest unemployment claims since 1988, illegal border crossing are down by 70%, China just agreed that US is now able to sell beef and other products into China again, Rule of Law is being restored, etc, etc….but all we hear from the media is Russia, Russia, Russia……unbelievable.

    • You are old enough to remember what Obama ‘did or did not do to split this country in two’? What do you mean by that? You believe Obama did good for the country? or not?

    • You say: “Please listen to what is being said about this man” ?? You mean listen to the MSM? The “media” IS ‘the cult’. People need to seek alternate information sources and learn to think for themselves and stop listening to the MSM. Trump is not the enemy. He is fighting the establishment and the corporate media on behalf of the people. If you can’t see that, you are the one being sucked in to ‘the cult.’

      • He is fighting the establishment on behalf of oligarchs and billionaires from Saudi Arabia, Russia, the US and wherever else oligarchs reign supreme. He wants them to gain bigger and
        Bigger favors from governments everywhere while working people suffer. Stand up to Trump’s kleptocracy and restore the rule of
        Law.

  7. I agree with the comments by Olly and others. If anyone cares to do their research….Comey goes way back to the 90’s in his connection to the Clinton’s. He was involved in the White Water investigation. He was involved in the Bill Clinton pardon investigations. And, including the most recent FBI matter that Comey was in charge of, all the investigations that Comey was a part of were resolved favorably for the Clintons despite evidence to the contrary. Comey now has a net worth of about $11 million. Did he marry into money? I have no other information, but for me, these facts put a reasonable doubt in my mind about Comey. Who said Comey was a straight arrow and a straight shooter beyond reproach? Was that the media? I don’t happen to believe it.

  8. If Trump isn’t above the law, then he shouldn’t be below it either. I think he has a right to know if he is under investigation. I think any of us would like to know if we are being investigated and for what.

  9. If Hillary Clinton was doing any of the things that Donald Trump is doing, you’d all be having a fit,foaming at the mouth. Donald Trump is a traitor, and I can’t wait til he’s arrested.

    • wem,
      You bet I would be “having a fit, foaming at the mouth.” You see we only have one President at a time and Clinton thankfully is not it. If she were doing the things Trump is doing it would be HER that would be a traitor and arrested.

      Now that we have that clear, please tell me what things President Trump is doing that makes you think him to be a traitor. Perhaps I’m assuming too much; a traitor to what exactly?

    • If you want to call anyone a traitor, Hillary Clinton is the traitor — with actual evidence to prove it.

  10. I find it strange that a President may not ask if he is under investigation. Isn’t that a common question that people ask cops? Am I under investigation or am I under arrest? If Comey was not allowed to answer that question, then of course he would calmly answer that they do not comment on investigations in progress.

    The FBI has released a statement that the firing of Comey has zero impact on their counter intelligence investigation of Russia. In fact,the FBI and the CIA would continue on at Quantico and Langley if and when the head of both organizations are replaced. You will note that there is not a very elderly couple of hundred old person at the head of either organization. It is not the same people running them from their inception. And yet the institutions stand.

    So if firing Comey does not impact the investigation, then why does that meme continue?

    It is also not shocking news that Trump wanted to fire Comey for a couple of weeks. Pelosi, Schumer, Clinton, and a slew of bipartisan politicians have voiced that they wanted him fired, to resign, be reprimanded, etc. All of a sudden, it is mysterious and sinister if the President did not have confidence in Comey to do the job.

    I cannot say if Comey should have retained his position. I do not have enough information. But I can say that it is rather common for anyone to question his employment. That’s been a rather common theme across the media. And I have no explanation at all for why Comey suddenly inserted a requirement for “intent” which was not in the statue governing the handling of classified information. If “intent” was required, then we should immediately release all of those serving time for negligent handling of information, as well as reinstate those who received dishonorable discharges, such as the guy who sent his girlfriend a selfie from aboard a nuclear sub. I can surmise that he had political motivation, but I can’t know for sure until he either admits it or his motive is proven. Troubling, to say the least.

    • Maybe Trump will get off because he had no intent to collude with the Russians. Don’t think Flynn and the rest of the crew will fare so well.

      • Joe,
        Let’s pretend for a moment there was collusion with the Russians. What did this collusion provide Russia or the Trump administration? The election? Money? Power? What? Are we to believe they colluded to manufacture the emails found on Podesta’s computer? Did they collude to expose the DNC and Clinton? Did Flynn tell the Russians that after Trump was elected he would have more flexibility? I’m seriously trying to understand what the so called collusion accomplished or is suspected to accomplish.

          • That much is obvious Joe. What isn’t obvious are the answers to the questions I posed in my previous post. It’s one thing to believe there to be collusion, and it’s a completely different thing to express what danger that collusion would be.

            Let me give you an example: Let’s say for example that I said the DNC colluded with Clinton. Oooh, that sounds horrible, right? But without proof, then it’s just another partisan attack. I might be asked to express what the results of that collusion might be. So I would suggest other candidates might not get equal support; debates might be tilted in favor of Clinton; they might even give her the questions in advance. You know, ripping apart the democratic process. Stuff like that.

            So when you say Trump colluded with the Russians, what do you believe that collusion did?

              • Got it. That would certainly be a concern. Now how would that manifest itself? Policy? Treaties? Money? Give away nuclear launch codes? Give away our natural resources? Not properly vet people gaining entry into our country? Arm terrorists?

                What could this administration possibly do without scrutiny from, well EVERYONE? I mean seriously, this President can’t eat two scoops of ice cream without it being reported by CNN.

                  • I read that story and just felt sad for CNN. 😦 And then I remembered they did that consciously and I was no longer sad. 🙂

                    • They all, like our friend Mike Kelly, have lost their collective minds. I shudder to think what will happen to them should they lose another election.

                    • FFS,
                      I really do believe the reason they’ve lost their collective minds is they believe deep in their collective souls that President Trump, his administration and the GOP in general will do to them exactly what they supported was done on Obama’s watch. They support this weaponized administrative state and are not comfortable one iota that they lost control of the weapons. There is of course the other concern for them; all their progressive hard work is in jeopardy. They’ve rediscovered the constitution though, well at least the Cliff Notes version. That’s a start. 🙂

        • I agree, Olly! So maybe the Russians had evidence that the DNC was corrupt, was Wasserman-Schultzing the hell out of Sanders and that CNN’s reporting was being shaped and slanted by the corrupt Donna Brazile. So what? Trump was supposed to tell them to keep it to themselves or else it would be deemed “foreign interference?” I welcome that kind of foreign interference. By all means, Putin, let us know when you have evidence that our politicians are lying sacks of crap. That is actually what our “free press” was supposed to do, but they’re too busy licking boots at the DNC. Or do they think Trump had these emails himself and just used “Russian hackers” to publish them? Again, so what? The important thing is that the American people were allowed to know the facts BEFORE THE ELECTION. As we all know, on page one of the DNC playbook is “bury all bad facts until after the election.” It worked for Kennedy on Cuba, Johnson on Vietnam, Obama on Benghazi . . . The complaint seems to be that they should have been allowed to steal yet another election by lying to American voters!

  11. Wait, so now there’s some special rule that a POTUS can’t ask if he’s under investigation? We’re talking about the Leader of the Free world. Why can’t he know?

    This is getting insane. We have a never-ending investigation into something that no one say what crime was committed, Trump quite rightly wants it to reach a conclusion, so we can move on. Why does the FBI need more time, they’ve been “investigating” for 10 months. And why haven’t they interviewed Trump or any of his close associates? What are they doing? Evidently we can’t ask that, because its super-top secret, except when the FBI leaks to the MSM>

  12. First, I think that some of you on this blog are as crazy as Trump, he is and always has been a con-man. It has caught up with him and he’s finding a way out. Trump is NOT up for the job and he knows it. Maybe its his way of getting out of the job and then Trump being Trump will blame everybody but himself. If Trump supporters are still sticking by him after this week than I suggest going to the doctors and getting new meds…….

    • LOL! First, not voting for Clinton or Sanders was the sanest thing anyone could possibly do. Second, not scouring the earth for anything to impeach this President or force his resignation after whiffing at doing the same with the last President is also sane. Third, having a worldview that will not give ANY of the political class a pass when they violate their oath of office, is not only sane, BUT WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO DO!

      You can keep your meds…you’ll need them.

        • What should the President have done with the assessment provided to him by Rosenstein? Ignore it? Keep in mind, firing the head of the FBI DOES NOT end the investigation. So how exactly is he strong-arming anyone?

          The thing is Mike, your inability to be objective is clouding your reason. It’s quite obvious that you and several others on this blog are simply attempting to pick the fly $hit out of the pepper over everything this President does. I’d say it would be the MSM and your ilk that are trying to strong-arm him and his “clan” and he’s having none of it.

          Good for him.

          • You seem
            To have devoted yourself to the defense of Trump and every rotten thing he does. Not a job I would care to
            have.

          • If Trump had ignored Rosenstein’s assessment questioning whether Comey could do the job, then the Left would claim that they were in cahoots and that proves collusion to bring down Hillary Clinton.

            When he accepted the assessment, which agreed with his own opinion, then he’s Nixon.

            Let’s just call it what it is – anarchy. There is an element of the Left who will not accept the results of our election. They didn’t get what they want, so they want to flout our laws, harass conservatives, and otherwise impose the will of the losing side. If they win, they’re happy. When they lose, they become anarchists trying a coup. They want to create a Venezuela here, except they believe that this time the experiment will be a success because they are smarter and purer and kinder and more wonderful than all of those idiots who have failed at socialism in the past. A shocking percentage of academics actually believe socialism is good. And by golly, if we don’t accept their virtue, then they’ll take to the streets and commit violence, riots, burn, or fight the President at every turn and ignore federal laws. You know, thinking about how 9/10 households in Venezuela do not have enough to eat, and all those skeletal suffering children the world is ignoring, at some point, they thought they were fighting the good fight. That capitalism was evil and socialism would make everyone the same and it would be nirvana. Those poor people. They were promised a false bill of goods and they are paying the price while the politicians are not. And yet, the Left wants that model here. And they will clearly do anything to get it.

            • Trump obviously thought that Comey was doing his job too well and that he, Flynn, Manafort, Stone and Carter would be caught. His scheme backfired and the investigation by the Senate picked up steam.

            • I agree Karen. I wrote in a post yesterday that empathy is both a good and a bad. It leads to utilitarianism. And when the majority demands that the government should act on their empathy or else, then we get this massive bureaucracy and $20 trillion in debt.

    • I love how whenever Trump or his people cite sources they don’t actually give any names. Huckabee Sanders saying “many legal scholars” is like Trump saying “many people are saying,” or “everybody’s saying.” Respected legal scholars who are confident in their assertions aren’t shy about giving their opinions and have no need to remain anonymous, unlike government officials who have good reason to fear retribution. When they do cite a named source, they misquote or misrepresent what was actually said. For instance, James Clapper, who Trump, the GOP and conservative media all keep claiming exonerated Trump by stating there’s no evidence, when in fact he said he was UNAWARE of any evidence, and was also unaware of the FBI investigation. He said wasn’t in the loop so even if there were evidence, he wouldn’t have known about it. Just like Pence was out of the loop about Flynn’s foreign agent status (even though he headed the transition team who was informed by Flynn’s lawyers) or Trump’s reason for firing Comey, as were all the various WH officials who told the press it all because of Rosenstein’s memo.

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