EVENING UPDATE: The Justice Department announced this afternoon they have appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as a special counsel to oversee the investigation into any sort of relationship between the Russian government, President Donald Trump's associates during the election, and any sort of possible effort to manipulate the election.
Mueller will answer to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and has been asked to investigate in three semi-specific areas:
- Any links or coordination between the Russian government and anybody associated with Trump's presidential campaign
- Any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation
- Any matters within the scope of the authorized jurisdiction of special counsel. This includes any federal crimes that may arise from attempts to interfere with the investigation, such as perjury, obstruction of justice, destruction of evidence, witness tampering, et cetera.
The second item would seem to cover an investigation of whether Trump attempted to interfere with the investigation or attempted to convince Jim Comey to shut it down. The third item would seem to cover any new attempts to try to meddle with Mueller's investigation.
Trump responded with a statement that there was no collusion between his campaign and any foreign entity and hoped the whole investigation would conclude quickly.
And for those who missed the news from earlier in the day:
In the wake of yesterday afternoon's New York Times report alleging fired former FBI Director James Comey had memos documenting President Donald Trump asking for an end to an investigation, the Senate Intelligence Committee wants to get their mitts on them.
Today the senators sent a letter to acting FBI head Andrew McCabe requesting copies of any and all memos that Comey "created memorializing interactions he had with Presidents Trump and Obama," as well as current Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and other top Justice Dept. Officials. The letter is signed by committee chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), ranking member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and crime and terrorism subcommittee chair Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) and ranking member Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island). They've asked for the memos by May 24.
Furthermore, the Senate Intelligence Committee is asking for Comey to appear before the committee in both closed and open sessions to give testimony. (Update: The House Oversight Committee has scheduled a hearing on the matter for May 24 and is asking Comey to testify.)
This should not be taken to assume that impeachment is in the air, but it's simply the first step in what's probably going to be a very long process. Feinstein said the idea of impeachment should remain "off the table," until they know more of whether any of the claims within the Times story are true.
It does very much seem, though, that the various scandals and outrages over Trump's behavior and his administration are crystallizing over the question of whether he attempted to push Comey and the FBI away from investigating former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn on whether he had misled over his ties with Russia and communications with Russian officials. Without attempting to speculate as to whether this is a legitimate issue, it's pretty easy to predict that this is going to be taking up a few news cycles. This morning Jacob Sullum analyzed whether or how the concept of "obstructing justice" would or could come into play here.
Read the letter yourself below. In the meantime, Trump has been quiet on Twitter for once, but in a commencement speech for United States Coast Guard Academy graduates today complained that "No politician in history, and I say this with great surety, has been treated worse or more unfairly."