Former FBI Director James Comey sworn in prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill. Photo: AFP, Jim Watson

As questions surrounding a memo from former FBI director James Comey, reportedly detailing conversations with Trump that could substantiate a crime, George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley makes the case that there is no reason to jump to conclusions.

Referring to the threshold for constituting the crime of obstruction of justice Turley writes, “the criminal code demands more than what Comey reportedly describes in his memo. There are dozens of different variations of obstruction charges ranging from threatening witnesses to influencing jurors. None would fit this case. That leaves the omnibus provision on attempts to interfere with the “due administration of justice.

“However, that still leaves the need to show that the effort was to influence ‘corruptly’ when Trump could say that he did little but express concern for a longtime associate. The term ‘corruptly’ is actually defined differently under the various obstruction provisions, but it often involves a showing that someone acted ‘with the intent to secure an unlawful benefit for oneself or another.’ Encouraging leniency or advocating for an associate is improper but not necessarily seeking an unlawful benefit for him.

“Then there is the question of corruptly influencing what? There is no indication of a grand jury proceeding at the time of the Valentine’s Day meeting between Trump and Comey. Obstruction cases generally are built around judicial proceedings — not Oval Office meetings.”

Turley goes on to argue that absent of clear criminal conduct, there is no good reason for impeachment: “Impeachment is not meant to be an alternative for criminal cases that cannot be submitted to a grand jury. It is also not meant to be politics by other means. Finally, it is not a vehicle to redo an election for those with morning-after regrets. Ironically, for those who charge that Trump has compromised the legal system, the same objection can be made over demands for criminal charges or impeachment based on his still undisclosed memo.”

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