After the New York Times reported President Donald Trump may have attempted to influence the FBI's investigation of fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn during a conversation with FBI Director James Comey, members of Congress on both sides have concluded that this time — with this blunder — it's serious.
If Trump did attempt to influence Comey's handling of the case, which concerns Flynn's possible connections with Russian officials during the 2016 election, Democrats and Republicans alike say he may have obstructed justice. And that could be an impeachable offense.
Sen. Angus King (I-Me.) told CNN Tuesday night he would support impeachment if the story is true, “simply because obstruction of justice is such a serious offense.”
Democratic members are going further. House Intelligence Committee member Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) told IJR that the report, if true, would “clearly be an obstruction of justice.” When asked if that would be an impeachable offense, Castro didn't hesitate.
“If true, yes,” he said.
GOP member Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.) told reporters Tuesday night that the report would be “deeply, deeply troubling and disconcerting, and it would open a new chapter of scandal” for the White House.
When IJR asked Curbelo whether the NYT story, if verified, would be enough for him to support impeachment efforts, he nodded. “It depends on the facts. If there was any obstruction of justice, that would obviously rise to that level," he said.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) echoed Curbelo's concerns. “I’d like to read the story and also see the document and have Director Comey testify,“ he told IJR. ”Obviously the allegations are very serious,” he added.
Democrats, some of whom have questioned Trump's ability to lead from the start of his term, have been more open about impeachment since The Washington Post's report was published Monday about Trump revealing highly classified information to the Russians during a meeting last week.
“I’m sure [impeachment] is a discussion we will have,” Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii) told IJR Tuesday night.
Before it is discussed, though, members want more information about the reports. Many on both sides have called for Comey to come before the House and Senate intelligence committees to provide further information about, among other things, the memos detailed in the NYT report.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) released a statement Tuesday night describing the report as “the most disturbing to date.” Schiff continued:
“If there are notes of these meetings, they should be provided to Congress immediately —subpoenaed if necessary — and Director Comey should be brought back to testify before Congress without delay.”
Schiff apparently has an ally in House Oversight Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who made clear that he is willing to use his subpoena powers to get to the bottom of the story.
It should be noted that no president has been impeached while Congress has been controlled by members of their own party, and Republican lawmakers have not been hasty to criticize Trump on Russia in the past. Castro believes the matter will transcend partisan politics if the report is verified, though.
“All Americans should be able to come to the same conclusion based on the evidence,” he told IJR. “There’s obviously a lot of politics around here but, at some point, I still believe that people will do what’s best for the country.”