According to Brookings Institution, a liberal-leaning think thank analysis, U.S. President Donald Trump “likely obstructed justice” when he fired FBI Director James Comey and could face impeachment.
In the 108-page report, Brookings concludes that even though Trump had the authority to fire Comey, that authority could be queried and found ulterior if the intention was to get in the way of an ongoing investigation.
Brookings analysts Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norman Eisen wrote, “Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction. Demanding the loyalty of an individual involved in an investigation, requesting that individual’s help to end the investigation, and then ultimately firing that person to accomplish that goal are the type of acts that have frequently resulted in obstruction convictions”.
The authors added, “The fact that the president has lawful authority to take a particular course of action does not immunise him if he takes that action with the unlawful intent of obstructing a proceeding for an improper purpose. There is already evidence that his acts may have been done with an improper intent to prevent the investigation from uncovering damaging information about Trump, his campaign, his family, or his top aides”.
Though the analysis did not highlight an outright recommendation for impeachment it submitted that if special counsel Robert Mueller who currently investigates a possible Trump campaign collusion with Russia to influence the last presidential election, comes to the same conclusion, legitimate articles of impeachment could be drawn up.
In addition, the report says, if special counsel Mueller finds Trump guilty of obstruction of Justice, he will be faced with the task either referring the issue to Congress, as was done with the Nixon-Watergate scandal, or pursue an indictment against Trump and prosecute.
Articles of impeachment against former presidents Richard Nixon, who resigned to avoid impeachment, and Bill Clinton, who was impeached but not convicted, “show that obstruction, conspiracy, and conviction of a federal crime have previously been considered by Congress to be valid reasons to remove a duly elected president from office.”