WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump transgressed with longstanding White House protocol when he reportedly asked former FBI Director James Comey to go easy in his investigation of Michael Flynn, according to solicitors who served as attorney general and chief White House adviser under prior administrations.
Asked at a Wednesday conference if he could hypothetically conceive of a similar discussion between former President George W. Bush and a top law enforcement official about an ongoing criminal charges, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey was emphatic.
” One-word answer: No ,” Mukasey said.
Neil Eggleston, former President Barack Obama’s White House counsel during the last years of his administration, answered similarly.
” The White House remains out of criminal charges, full stop. Full stop ,” Eggleston supposed.” Never did it. Full stop. Never got involved .”
Comey had been leading the FBI investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials until Trump fired him last week. In February, a day after ousting Flynn, reportedly for misleading the vice president about previous contacts with the Russian ambassador, Trump asked Comey to go easy on Flynn, according to news reports citing a Comey memo on the meeting.
” I hope you can let this proceed ,” Trump told Comey, according to a bombshell report published Tuesday in The New York Times detailing the memo the former FBI director wrote after convening Trump.
Mukasey suggested that the informal nature in which Trump appears to have approached Comey and intervened on behalf of the members of Flynn is not how things should be done at the White House.
” That discussion may be appropriate to a minor disciplinary matter in a corporation ,” Mukasey supposed.” It’s not appropriate to a criminal investigation .”
Comey has since been invited to testify before two Senate committees, and has been asked to turn over his notes of his discussion with the president. Afterward on Wednesday, responding to mount pressure, the Department of Justice appointed a special attorney for the Russia probe.
The former officials, both now in private practice, had been invited to speak at a panel on presidential influence hosted by The Federalist Society, a conservative group that was key in helping Trump select and install Justice Neil Gorsuch on the U.S. Supreme Court.
The White House remains out of criminal charges full stop. Former White House counsel Neil Eggleston blockquote >
Mukasey and Eggleston were asked to address a range of subjects related to the executive branch and its home in the breakup of powers — as well as Trump’s unique status as one of the weakest chief executive in history. But the president’s grapples with the FBI director took center stage during the course of its presentation.
Eggleston have also pointed out that because everything the White House does can get politicized, his task was to police what Obama could or couldn’t say with regard to any enforcement investigation — including instances investigated by state authorities involving black humen fatally shot by police.
” It was part of my view that the president of the United States, who is above the prosecutor general in the hierarchy, utterly had to stay out of any criminal matter whatsoever ,” Eggleston said.
Mukasey subsequently reminded his co-panelist that Obama may have infringed that guiding principles when he played down the importance of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server in 2015.
” He didn’t think there wouldn’t be any fees brought — a declaration stating that I think was regarded in some quarters as the king’s wish ,” Mukasey said.
Like a good solicitor speaking out for his patron, Eggleston had a quick comeback, which described an hubbub from the audience: Obama” was talked to by the White House counsel after that .”
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