White House threatened with subpoena over draft letter from Trump to Comey


September 3, 2017

A leading member of a congressional intelligence committee is threatening to subpoena the White House in order to obtain a draft letter that Donald Trump reportedly wanted to send to James Comey when he fired him as FBI chief.

September 3, 2017

A leading member of a congressional intelligence committee is threatening to subpoena the White House in order to obtain a draft letter that Donald Trump reportedly wanted to send to James Comey when he fired him as FBI chief.

Donald Trump and James Comey: a draft letter has added to questions over whether the president tried to obstruct justice.

The move comes amid growing questions over whether the president tried to obstruct justice and has misled people about his business interests in Russia.

Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, said on Sunday it was “probably past time” that lawmakers used a subpoena to force Trump to hand over relevant documents. He also accused the president of being dishonest when he said during the election campaign that he had no business dealings with Russia.

Special counsel Robert Mueller is understood to have a copy of the letter already as part of his independent investigation into Russian attempts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election and into whether Trump has in any way obstructed justice.

Schiff has not seen the letter in question, he told CNN on Sunday.

He said the intelligence committee contacted the White House after Trump had alluded to possible recordings of private conversations he had with Comey in the days leading up to the FBI chief’s unexpected dismissal in early May.

“I have not seen the document. And we wrote to the White House, after the claim was made that the president had tapes of his discussions with Comey, to ask about anything memorializing any conversations with Comey,” said Schiff.

He added: “They first responded by tweet and then by letter saying they didn’t have any such thing. If this is responsive to our letter, they need to produce it and it’s probably past time for our committee to subpoena the White House to make sure we get all relevant documents.”

When Comey was fired in May, the Trump administration said it was because he had botched the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s wrongful use of a private email server when she was secretary of state, then said that he had lost the confidence of those under him at the FBI.

But Trump then revealed in a television interview a few days later that “this Russia thing with Trump and Russia” had influenced the firing – presumably referring to Comey’s FBI investigation into possible collusion between Trump advisers and Russian officials to sway the 2016 US election in Trump’s favour.

Shortly afterwards, the DoJ appointed Mueller as special counsel to scrutinize the dealings of the Trump campaign and the Trump administration in all those matters, an investigation that is ongoing.

But the New York Times claimed on Friday that Trump and one of his senior advisers, Stephen Miller, had collaborated on a long, angry draft letter to Comey in May, described as a “screed”, which White House counsel Donald McGahn blocked the president from sending.

“Among Mr McGahn’s concerns were references to private conversations the president had with Mr Comey, including times when the FBI director told Mr Trump he was not under investigation in the FBI’s continuing Russia inquiry,” the paper wrote.

Nevertheless Trump’s letter to Comey telling him he was fired did include a reference to those conversations.

The full contents of the draft letter has not been revealed.

CNN show host Dana Bash asked Schiff on Sunday if it would be a case of obstruction of justice if the letter revealed that the president and Stephen Miller had said explicitly that Trump was firing James Comey because of the Russia investigation.

He said: “It’s certainly further evidence of a potential obstruction of justice, and something that Mr Mueller would have to consider. It’s something, I think, our committee also needs to get to the bottom of.”

Schiff said if it was the case, it would be consistent “with what the president himself admitted” – a reference to Trump’s “this Russia thing” comment.

“And the fact that it’s in such sharp contrast to what they initially said, that this was about his [Comey’s] handling of the Clinton email investigation, is further evidence of an attempt to conceal the real motives,” he said.

Schiff also responded to recent news that Donald Trump’s lawyer, Michael Cohen, emailed Vladimir Putin’s spokesman during the US presidential campaign asking for help with a Trump real estate project in Moscow, according to email evidence presented to Congress.

Cohen, who was vice-president of the Trump Organization at the time as well as being Trump’s attorney, sent an email to Dmitry Peskov, a top Kremlin official, according to the Washington Post, in which he mentioned difficulties between a Russian company and a “Trump Tower-Moscow” project, and requested assistance.

Schiff said on Sunday that he thought the revelations were very significant.

“We had requested documents from Mr Cohen,” he said.

“And not being satisfied, we subpoenaed Mr Cohen for whatever records were relevant to our investigation. It means, among other things, the president was dishonest when he said during the campaign that he had no business in Russia, wasn’t pursuing business in Russia,” Schiff said.

He said he expected Cohen to be called to testify to the committee at some point. He added: “So, yet another, I think, misleading statement by the administration about their relationship with Russia. It’s also significant because if they were pursuing business in Russia during the campaign, that might’ve influenced the positions that the candidate took in a more pro-Russian direction.”

Courtesy/Source: The Guardian