A Senate investigation into connections between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia warns that it is considering a case of obstruction of justice against the US president.
“What we’re beginning to see is the putting together of a case of obstruction of justice,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
“I think we see this in the indictments, the four indictments and pleas that have just taken place and some of the comments that are being made,” Feinstein said, explaining the possibility of obstruction charges.
Trump tweeted on Saturday that he fired Michael Flynn as national security adviser in February “because he lied to the vice-president and the FBI” about his contacts with the Russian ambassador late last year.
The tweet came a day after Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents. This would mean that Trump knew Flynn had committed a serious crime but pressured former FBI Director James Comey not to investigate him.
The president later also fired Comey.
Contrary to what Comey has testified to Congress, the president on Sunday again denied he ever made such a request. “I never asked Comey to stop investigating Flynn. Just more Fake News covering another Comey lie!” he tweeted.
After he was fired himself in May, Comey testified under oath before a Senate panel that, a day after Flynn’s ouster, Trump asked him to drop the investigation into his senior aide.
Feinstein said she believed Trump’s firing of Comey was “directly because he did not agree to ‘lift the cloud’ of the Russia investigation.”
“That’s obstruction of justice,” the senator said.
Congressional panels as well as Special Counsel Robert Mueller are investigating Russia’s alleged interference in last year’s US election and possible collusion between Trump’s team and the Kremlin.
Legal experts and other Democrats are also suggesting that Trump could face charges of obstruction of justice because of the way he has handled the Russia inquiry.
Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said that Trump’s comments showed “knowledge of lawbreaking he concealed — never before disclosed.”
“He could be tweeting himself into an obstruction of justice conviction,” Richard Painter, a former ethics counsel to the George W. Bush administration, was quoted as saying by The Guardian.
Trump’s attorney, John Dowd, told Reuters that he had drafted the tweet about Flynn, adding he now realized it was a “mistake.”
“I’ll take responsibility,” Dowd said.
As part of his plea deal, Flynn agreed to cooperate with prosecutors looking into contacts between Trump’s inner circle and Russia before he took office.