Cooper to Comey: Should Trump Be Prosecuted When He’s Out of Office?

No, he’s not running for president, but CNN still decided to host yet another town hall for former FBI Director James Comey in order get his slanted take on the findings of the Special Counsel investigation. As with the presidential town halls, moderator Anderson Cooper hit the standard liberal talking points, including impeachment (and, for some reason, guns). But Cooper went further and wondered if the Justice Department should prosecute President Trump when he’s out of office.

Ten minutes into the event, Cooper wanted to know if Comey sensed “corrupted intent” from Trump while reading Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report (click “expand”):

COOPER: Do you think he had criminal intent based on what you have seen now in the Mueller report?

COMEY: It sure looks like he did in connection with a couple of episodes, the direction to Don McGahn to get the special counsel fired is to my mind a flaming example.

COOPER: Of corrupt intent?

COMEY: Yes, of corrupt intent.

“So in your opinion, there was corrupt intent, at least in several of those episodes,” Cooper asked one more time for good measure. “It sure looks that way…,” Comey replied.

A minute later, Cooper began to get into the accusations of obstruction of justice by wondering if Comey agreed that the report’s findings “would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump if he weren't president.” Of course, Comey concurred.

Since it’s Department of Justice policy not to prosecute a sitting president, Cooper was eager to know if his guest felt that the President should be prosecuted once he left office (click “expand”):

COOPER: Do you think he should be charged when he is out of office? Based on what Mueller has shown?

COMEY: Well, I think the Justice Department will have to take a serious look at that. Whether it's a wise thing to do to a former president, I don't know. That's a harder question, a much bigger question than the facts of the case.

COOPER: But you think the evidence is there to prosecute?

COMEY: Sure looks like it's there with respect to at least a couple of those episodes of obstruction.

 

 

Comey probably surprised Cooper after he was prompted to comment on whether or not the country was experiencing a “constitutional crisis” and said no.

In probably one of the few times that their names were ever uttered on CNN, Cooper allowed an audience member to ask Comey about former FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. But since the “Facts First” news outlet rarely allowed discussion of them (and former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe), Cooper actually had to give viewers a speedy crash course on who they were (click “expand”):

We've got a question I want to preface a little bit for our viewers at home in case they haven't been following it. The question is going to be about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and Andrew McCabe. Just for folks at home, Strzok and Page are former FBI officials who exchanged texts bashing then-candidate Trump in 2016, raising questions of bias. Strzok played a key role in the Hillary Clinton investigation, worked briefly on Mueller's team. Strzok was eventually fired. Page resigned. McCabe was Director Comey's deputy at the FBI, lied to internal investigators about leaking information to the press. He was fired last year. So, I want to go to our questioner.

Cooper was also fascinated with a morbid op-ed Comey had written for The New York Times where he claimed the President “eats” people’s souls (click “expand”):

I want to follow up on that, because you wrote something that I found really interesting. You wrote an op-ed in The New York Times last week. It's called "How Trump coopts leaders like Bill Barr." In it you said, part of it, you said, quote, “accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.” I mean, explain how the President of the United States is eating people’s souls and how that – how that process takes place.

Near the end of the town hall, an audience member asked Comey about any potential aspirations he might have to run for public office. Comey said it wasn’t for him but Cooper was immediately interested in Comey’s efforts to “canvas for Democrats in the upcoming election”. Comey said he would.

The transcript is below, click "expand" to read:

CNN’s Fmr. FBI Director James Comey: AC360 Town Hall
May 9, 2019
8:10:37 p.m. Eastern

(…)

ANDERSON COOPER: Do you think he had criminal intent based on what you have seen now in the Mueller report?

JAMES COMEY: It sure looks like he did in connection with a couple of episodes, the direction to Don McGahn to get the special counsel fired is to my mind a flaming example.

COOPER: Of corrupt intent?

COMEY: Yes, of corrupt intent.

(…)

COOPER: So in your opinion, there was corrupt intent, at least in several of those episodes?

COMEY: It sure looks that way from the report’s factual recitation.

(…)

8:11:17 p.m. Eastern

COOPER: If there -- they're now, what, I think it's up to 800 former federal prosecutors who have worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations who have signed a statement saying that Mueller's findings would have produced obstruction charges against President Trump if he weren't president. Do you agree?

COMEY: Yeah, I agree.

(…)

8:13:10 p.m. Eastern

COOPER: Do you think he should be charged when he is out of office? Based on what Mueller has shown?

COMEY: Well, I think the Justice Department will have to take a serious look at that. Whether it's a wise thing to do to a former president, I don't know. That's a harder question, a much bigger question than the facts of the case.

COOPER: But you think the evidence is there to prosecute?

COMEY: Sure looks like it's there with respect to at least a couple of those episodes of obstruction.

(…)

8:17:44 p.m. Eastern

COOPER: Are we in a constitutional crisis as Jerry Nadler and House Speaker Pelosi says -- say we are?

 

COMEY: I actually don't think so. I think we're in a time where our constitutional design, the genius of our founders is going to be tested, and I think it's up for it. Right?

(…)

8:18:24 p.m. Eastern

COOPER: We've got a question I want to preface a little bit for our viewers at home in case they haven't been following it. The question is going to be about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page and Andrew McCabe. Just for folks at home, Strzok and Page are former FBI officials who exchanged texts bashing then-candidate Trump in 2016, raising questions of bias. Strzok played a key role in the Hillary Clinton investigation, worked briefly on Mueller's team. Strzok was eventually fired. Page resigned. McCabe was Director Comey's deputy at the FBI, lied to internal investigators about leaking information to the press. He was fired last year. So, I want to go to our questioner.

(…)

8:50:00 p.m. Eastern

COOPER: I want to follow up on that, because you wrote something that I found really interesting. You wrote an op-ed in The New York Times last week. It's called "How Trump coopts leaders like BILL Barr." In it you said, part of it, you said, quote, “accomplished people lacking inner strength can’t resist the compromises necessary to survive Mr. Trump and that adds up to something they will never recover from. It takes character like Mr. Mattis’s to avoid the damage, because Mr. Trump eats your soul in small bites.”

I mean, explain how the President of the United States is eating people’s souls and how that – how that process takes place.

(…)

JAMES SMATHERS: In your book A Higher Loyalty, you talk about the importance of political norms in our government. Do you think if House Democrats don't move toward impeachment for obstruction of justice they will be putting politics over principles?

(…)

9:04:37 p.m. Eastern

COOPER: You canvassed for a Republican candidate in Virginia.

COMEY: Democratic candidate.

COOPER: Democratic candidate in Virginia, excuse me. Would you canvas for Democrats in the upcoming election?

COMEY: Yes.

(…)

NB Daily Events Mueller Report Bias by Omission Conspiracy Theories Political Groups Liberals & Democrats Political Scandals Trump-Russia probe Cable Television CNN Other CNN Video James Comey Robert Mueller Anderson Cooper Donald Trump

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