President Trump’s lawyers have submitted memos to special counsel Robert Mueller arguing that the president did not obstruct justice by firing former FBI chief James Comey, and also questioning Comey’s reliability as a potential witness.
The memos, reported by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday, argued that Trump has the inherent authority under the Constitution to hire and fire as he sees fit, and therefore did not obstruct justice when he fired Comey in May.
Mueller’s team is investigating whether Trump obstructed justice as part of the probe into Russian meddling and whether there was any collusion with Trump’s campaign.
Comey had led the investigation until Trump fired him on May 9. Trump had reportedly been frustrated that Comey was unwilling to tell the American public that Trump himself was not under investigation. In a letter firing Comey, Trump thanked Comey for telling him on three separate occasions that he was not under investigation.
Comey testified later that he believed Trump had tried to get him to end an investigation of his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, which Trump has denied doing.
Comey also revealed he had made memos of his private conversations with Trump so he could share them with investigators later. But he also admitted that he leaked at least one of them to his friend, Daniel Richman, a professor and former prosecutor, so that he could leak them to the media, which he did.
Mueller didn’t offer a response to that memo or to the arguments pertaining to Mr. Comey’s reliability as a witness, people familiar with the matter told the WSJ.
Some experts told the WSJ that the Trump team’s outreach to Mueller wasn’t unusual as a tactic in a legal defense.
“Your objective is to find out what they’ve got and get ahead of them,” said Julie Rose O’Sullivan, a Georgetown Law professor told the WSJ. “You definitely want some contact so you get a sense of where it’s going and take their temperature.”
Legal experts also agree the president can fire the FBI director at will, the WSJ reported.