President Trump went on national television Thursday and openly admitted that he committed an impeachable offense.
In an interview with NBC’s Lester Holt, Trump said, “When I decided to [fire Comey], I said to myself, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should have won.”
Let’s put aside the fact that the FBI’s focus on possible collusion by Trump and Russian officials began in the summer of 2016 (well before the election); the real story here is that Trump is acknowledging that the Russia investigation was the key factor in his decision to fire Comey. That’s a clear admission that the president of the United States actively sought to interfere in a criminal inquiry and thus obstruct justice. That this investigation is one that touches directly on Trump’s actions makes it that much worse, but even if it didn’t presidents simply cannot seek to stop the FBI from conducting a criminal inquiry. Even were this not an indictable crime, it is certainly grounds for impeachment.
Indeed, it’s worth remembering that when Richard Nixon was eventually forced to resign the presidency, in 1974, he did so because of the release of White House tapes that recorded him telling his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman, to get the CIA to pressure the FBI to stop its investigation of the Watergate break-in. But in that case, bipartisan congressional pressure, an independent special prosecutor, and federal court decisions that forced Nixon to turn over White House tapes made clear his law-breaking.
In Trump’s case, he went on television and brazenly volunteered the information. For anyone with their eyes open, Donald Trump’s credibility lies in pieces.
What’s perhaps most remarkable about Trump’s comments is that they directly and unambiguously contradict his own White House staff, and even his vice president. For two days, Trump’s willing accomplices and professional enablers stood before the American people and lied. They claimed that Trump fired Comey because of a recommendation from the Department of Justice related to his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation. No one with half a brain actually believed that, and if there is any solace to be taken from Trump’s admission, it’s that we can at least stop pretending that the firing of Comey had anything to do with something other than Russia.
But here’s the only thing that we should be talking about: What is the process for removing Donald Trump from the nation’s highest office? That we’re not focused exclusively on this question is turning May 2017 into one of darkest moments in American history.