3

Intro

Former FBI director James Comey recently testified, under oath, before the Senate Intelligence Committee. In his testimony, among other things, he repeated his claims that President Trump urged him to drop the investigation into former national security advisor Michael Flynn.

Yesterday President Trump's lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, responded with a statement in which he clearly denied that President Trump suggested that Mr. Comey "let Flynn go".

Furthermore, President Trump personally addressed the media today, unambiguously contradicting the claim that he asked James Comey to end the investigation into Michael Flynn. Additionally, President Trump willingly offered to testify under oath.

Questions

  • Can't they just check Comey's laptop, where he supposedly typed the memos immediately after the meetings with President Trump? If the timestamp of these memos corresponds with the meetings dates, doesn't that at least prove, that Comey isn't making these things up now?

  • What happens, as it seems to unfold, if President Trump's word stands against James Comey's word (assuming there were not actually recording devices present)?

To me it seems that testimony against testimony, both under oath, is as far as it can go. Unless there are further revelations, I don't see how either President Trump or James Comey can profit.

Edit

In order to make the question a bit more answerable and to narrow it down, assume that after both parties have testified under oath, no further revelations are made. There is no hard evidence as to who is right.

Possible answer

The imminent word-against-word situation is already changing, as investigators asked for President Trump's recordings and Comey's memos. I did not know that the memos have not been looked at yet. So this kind of answers my question.

  • 1
    This seems to be a question with wide room for speculation and opinions and is perhaps too broad to even be answerable. A lot of different things could happen. – user1530 Jun 9 '17 at 21:37
  • @blip I tried to narrow down the question a little. – pat3d3r Jun 9 '17 at 21:45
  • I'm still not sure that this is narrow enough. You're asking for what people's opinions are after a he-said, he-said event. There's nothing objective here – Machavity Jun 9 '17 at 22:35
  • @Machavity From the Committee's point of view, if it was word against word, without any further evidence, is there a clear path what to do? Does anyone's word weigh more? Or do they just drop their inquiry then? That is what I am interested in. To be fair, my question gets more outdated by the minute, since investigators are already asking for recordings and memos. Hence the apparent word-against-word-situation is about to be changed. – pat3d3r Jun 9 '17 at 23:20
  • 1
    @JSON Impeachment is completely different from the usual criminal process. Congress can decide to impeach on whatever arbitrary basis they so desire. It's up to them, and therefore purely political. All they have to worry about is what happens to popular opinion when they're up for re-election. If congress just hates the president and wants him gone anything at all can be used: Killing a hooker? That's an impeachment. Calling my momma a ho? That's an impeachment. Using dijon mustard? You better believe that's an impeachment. – zibadawa timmy Jun 10 '17 at 0:34
4

Can't they just check Comey's laptop, where he supposedly typed the memos immediately after the meetings with President Trump? If the timestamp of these memos corresponds with the meetings dates, doesn't that at least prove, that Comey isn't making these things up now?

No. It is entirely possible to spoof the time on a laptop. Even if that is blocked by IT (Information Technology staff; i.e. the people who manage the computing resources for the organization), he could do it with the help of one IT staffer. The timestamp of the saved document on his laptop is of negligible evidentiary value.

The two ways it matters is if it is recorded on a server for which James Comey did not have control or if someone else testifies as to receiving the information. I don't know about the former, but there is some evidence of the latter. I.e. that he shared those memos with other people. This aspect is covered more here.

What happens, as it seems to unfold, if President Trump's word stands against James Comey's word (assuming there were not actually recording devices present)?

Probably nothing. What Comey claimed Donald Trump said was not illegal. To make it illegal, one has to assume that Trump meant more than what his words said.

If Trump testifies, then Trump would be in danger. He could potentially be charged with perjury or something else incident to what he said. But he couldn't be charged with perjury just on the basis of Comey's testimony. They would need corroborating evidence of the original conversation. The memos are insufficient, as they still rely on Comey's testimony. They might serve as evidence of obstruction of justice, although as described the evidence of that is flimsy even if we take Comey's word as to what was said.

Conflicts in the evidence encourage more investigation. In particular, it raises the stakes. If Trump contradicts Comey (as opposed to just giving a different interpretation of events), it opens up the possibility of perjury.

Take the Bill Clinton impeachment as an example. Clinton committed perjury when he said that he did not have sex with Monica Lewinsky. But having sex outside of marriage isn't illegal in the District of Columbia. Clinton was in no legal danger until he testified. His denial bought him nothing in terms of legal protection. It only exposed his immoral but legal actions to legal scrutiny.

1

federal law requires that intent is proven as well as guilt, so simply proving that Trump is guilty won't condemn him to impeachment. Multiple ranking senators have gone on record saying that they had told trump that there wasn't currently a criminal probe, just general inquiries, so intent can be hard to prove if Trump suggests that he had cause to believe that there was no likelihood of criminal charges due to authoritative accounts. In-the-know senators which are privy are as authoritative as it gets, even if such senators are proven schmucks.

Also note that even if Trump can be proven to have tried to stop an investigation that it will become even more convoluted because he can basically claim the constitutional right to do so as long as there's no proof that he did it for personal reasons such as covering his own ass. For example, he can claim that it was a threat to national security because of the way that it relates to Russian relations (see here for example - http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/325606-democrats-step-up-calls-that-russian-hack-was-act-of-war). Intent will be very hard to prove.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.