A week to the day after President Trump fired FBI Director James Comey, a memo he purportedly written claiming Trump asked him to end the Mike Flynn investigation was leaked to The New York Times. In the aftermath of the first story, CNN Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin flew off the handle and compared it Watergate. A week later, Toobin was again jumping to conclusions and ignoring the sketchy facts. “Three words: Obstruction of justice,” he exclaimed to Wolf Blitzer on The Situation Room.
“Telling the FBI director to close down an investigation of your senior campaign adviser for his activities during your campaign for president, if that's true, that is obstruction of justice,” he continued to opine. But even though Toobin qualified his remarks with “if that’s true” it was blatantly obvious that he was banking on the shocking accusation to be accurate.
Un-ironically, Toobin lectured about how to put together evidence to corroborate a story. “When you have two people with contradictory versions of a conversation, what you look at is-- you look at their demeanor, you look at their motives to lie. But you also look at corroboration,” he told Blitzer. He also explained that:
This is how trials work. Is that you don't just sort of throw up your hands, and decide one person is telling the truth and one person is lying. You look at all the surrounding circumstances and try to find corroborated notes by either person, videos, and of course, you know, the issue that hangs out here even more important is are there White House tapes.
As much as Toobin asserts that “you look at all the surrounding circumstances,” he failed to do that in this case. Because if he did, or didn’t have a controlling bias, he would’ve realized that the circumstances and accusations are quite shady.
The Times admits to never actually seeing the unclassified memo. According to their own reporting, an associate of Comey’s, who they didn’t name, read it to them over the phone to them. “The New York Times has not viewed a copy of the memo, which is unclassified, but one of Mr. Comey’s associates read parts of the memo to a Times reporter,” they wrote. That should’ve been the first set of alarm bells that went off for Toobin.
The second set of alarms should’ve been set off by the fact that the memo contradicts the sworn testimony of the acting FBI director. In his testimony to a Senate committee following the firing of Comey, Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe told Senators that the Trump administration had not tried to interfere with the Russia investigation.
CNN even reported that fact, saying: “The acting FBI director also said there has been no effort to impede the FBI's investigation into Russian interference in the election, but vowed to inform a Senate panel if the White House tried to intervene.”
It’s clear that Toobin had tunnel vision focus on Trump being guilty without taking in “all the surrounding circumstances.” This is also another instance of the media taking the claims of anonymous sources and running with them before the authenticity can be verified.
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The Situation Room
May 16, 2017
5:36:18 PM Eastern
WOLF BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, you're our senior legal analyst, the third sentence in this article of The New York Times says this, “the existence of Mr. Trump's request is the clearest evidence that the President has tried to directly influence the Justice Department and FBI investigation into links between Mr. Trump's associates and Russia. You're reaction to this bombshell report and the White House denial.
JEFFREY TOOBIN: Three words: Obstruction of justice. Telling the FBI director to close down an investigation of your senior campaign adviser for his activities during your campaign for president, if that's true, that is obstruction of justice. Why do you think director Comey wrote a memo to the file about it? Because he was so appalled that a president of the United States would behave in this way. “Close it down” is an instruction to stop investigating President Trump's campaign.
Richard Nixon was impeached in 1974 for telling the FBI to stop an investigation of his campaign. That's what Watergate was, and, you know, if Comey was telling the truth in this memo, and obviously there's a dispute about that from the FBI -- from the White House, but if he's telling the truth, I don't know how anyone can see this comment in anything but obstruction of justice.
5:52:55 PM Eastern
TOOBIN: Virtually every federal criminal trial involves what's called FBI 302s, which are the record -- which are the notes typed up of every interview, every act that an FBI agent participates in.
But let me raise another point that I think is very important here. It's the issue of corroboration. When you have two people with contradictory versions of a conversation, what you look at is-- you look at their demeanor, you look at their motives to lie. But you also look at corroboration. And there's a very important point in Michael Schmidt's story here that can be corroborated or not. He says, Michael Schmidt, says in The Times story that this is a group meeting including Vice President Pence and Attorney General Sessions, which ended and then President Trump asked Comey to meet him one on one.
Will Pence and Sessions corroborate that there was this separate meeting between Trump and Comey. If they will corroborate there was a one on one meeting. That is a significant factor. It’s not the only one, but a significant factor that would corroborate James Comey's version of events. This is how trials work. Is that you don't just sort of throw up your hands, and decide one person is telling the truth and one person is lying. You look at all the surrounding circumstances and try to find corroborated notes by either person, videos, and of course, you know, the issue that hangs out here even more important is are there White House tapes.
President trump was very coy about that. He suggested they were and then wouldn't answer questions about it. But the question of whether there are tapes and whether this conversation, if it took place between Comey and Trump was tape recorded now becomes quite possibly the most important thing in determining whether Donald Trump completes his term in office.