A think tank analysis asserts that President Donald Trump obstructed justice by firing former FBI Director James Comey. The analysis concludes that a federal investigation into the matter would likely find wrongdoing and unearth an impeachable offense.
On Oct. 10, the Brookings Institution released a 108-page analysis of the circumstances surrounding Comey's termination from the FBI. The think tank found there was sufficient evidence that Trump had dismissed Comey because he was leading an investigation into whether associates of his presidential campaign had colluded with Russian officials to subvert the 2016 election, CNBC reports.
Ethics experts Barry Berke, Noah Bookbinder and Norman Eisen authored the analysis.
"Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction," the analysis stated. "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."
On May 9, Trump abruptly dismissed Comey with a letter. The FBI director had been leading a federal investigation into the Trump campaign at the time, according to the Los Angeles Times.
"While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the bureau," Trump wrote to Comey.
On May 11, Trump disclosed during an interview with NBC News that he decided to dismiss Comey regardless of any input from the DOJ. Memos contemporaneously penned by Comey while he serving in the bureau alleged that the president had asked for his personal loyalty and that he declined during a dinner on Jan. 27.
On June 8, Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee as a witness in the congressional investigation into Russia's role during the 2016 presidential election. The former FBI director asserted under oath that Trump had directed him to drop an investigation into Michael Flynn, former White House national security adviser, on Feb. 14.
The Brookings Institution analysis asserted Trump had the executive authority to fire Comey, but that events that precipitated the dismissal indicated the president was attempting to end an investigation into his associates.
"The fact that the president has lawful authority to take a particular course of action does not immunize him if he takes that action with the unlawful intent of obstructing a proceeding for an improper purpose," the analysis stated, according to CNBC.
"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," the analysis concluded.
Special counsel Robert Mueller is heading the federal probe into the Russian government's role during the 2016 election.
On Oct. 5, sources familiar with the investigation disclosed that Mueller's team had interviewed Christopher Steele, a former MI-6 officer who had written an unverified dossier alleging that the Russian government was blackmailing Trump with compromising information, CNN reports.
The Brookings Institution asserted in its analysis that Mueller's probe would find evidence that Trump had obstructed justice by firing Comey. The analysis did not outright recommend that Trump be removed from office, but stated that the potential offense would merit articles of impeachment against the president.
Sources: Governance Studies at Brookings, CNBC, CNN, Los Angeles Times / Feature Image: Brigitte N. Brantley/DoD via Jim Mattis/Flickr / Embedded Images: FBI/Flickr, Pete Souza via Obama White House/Flickr