‘We’re in impeachment territory’: David Gergen, former presidential adviser, on Comey’s Trump memo

Trump greets Comey during a reception for law enforcement officers at the White House, Jan. 22, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)
President Trump greets FBI Director James Comey at a reception for law enforcement officers at the White House on Jan. 22, 2017. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The New York Times’ report that President Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia — a conversation that Comey reportedly detailed in a memo following their February meeting — has led to talk of something not heard much in Washington since President Bill Clinton’s second term: impeachment.

“After watching the Clinton impeachment, I thought I would never see another one,” CNN political analyst David Gergen said Tuesday night shortly after the Times story was published. “But I think we’re in impeachment territory.” (There were several efforts by House Democrats to impeach President George W. Bush for various alleged offenses, most having to do with the invasion of Iraq. None of the efforts succeeded.)

Gergen — a former aide to four presidents, including Clinton and Richard Nixon — said it appears Trump was obstructing justice, a charge that led to impeachment proceedings against Nixon and Clinton.

“It looks like [Trump] was trying to impede the investigation,” Gergen said. “He was using his power to do that, and when James Comey didn’t go along with him … he fired him.”

The White House has denied Trump made such a request, saying the Times did not give “a truthful or accurate portrayal of the conversation between the president and Mr. Comey.” But several other media outlets — including CNN, Politico and the Washington Post — confirmed the details of the meeting and the existence of Comey’s memo — and others.

“There are other memos about his meetings too,” a friend of Comey’s told Politico. “He wrote down every word Trump said to him as soon as he could.”

“This is of enormous consequence for his presidency,” Gergen added. “I think if you look at the three bombshells that we have had — the Comey firing last week; then the sharing of this highly classified conversation with the Russians, of all people, and now Trump asking Comey to drop the case — we have a presidency that’s starting to fall apart.”

Earlier Tuesday, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, whether the nation is “getting closer and closer to the possibility of yet another impeachment process.”

“Reluctantly, Wolf, I have to say yes,” King said.

Blitzer posed the same question to Rep. Elijah Cummings.

“I think we’re going to have to look into a little bit further,” Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, replied. “But I would think so.”

Appearing on CNN late Tuesday, Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla., said history points to Trump’s possible impeachment.

“Obstruction of justice in the case of Nixon, in the case of Clinton in the late 90s, has been considered an impeachable offense,” Curbelo said.

The word impeachment came up on MSNBC too.

“Is it an impeachable offense if the president, in fact, obstructed justice?” host Chris Hayes asked Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.

“I hope you’ll forgive me if I duck that question,” Durbin replied. “I have said, and many Democrats have said, we’re not going to get into that kind of speculation.”

Durbin said the Comey memo report highlights the need for a special prosecutor to oversee the investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, as well as the need to delay the appointment of a new FBI director “until we have time to reflect on this and make sure the next person is clearly one who will be beholden to the law and to the Constitution and not in any way subservient to the president.”

On Twitter, Rep. Al Green, D-Texas, announced that he plans to call for Trump’s impeachment on the House floor.

Speaking at a Republican dinner in his honor on Tuesday night, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., didn’t use the word impeachment. But he alluded to the scandal that led to the impeachment process being initiated against Nixon.

“I think we’ve seen this movie before,” McCain said. “I think it’s reaching a point where it’s of Watergate size and scale.”

Nixon resigned before he could be impeached.

On Fox News’ “The Five,” talk of Trump’s impeachment was discussed — not as a possibility, but as a ploy by Democrats to undermine the president.

“It might be politically unwise and painful to go through,” Fox’s Dana Perino said. “I think that the Democrats’ leap to impeach after hearing anonymous sources is a little bit of a stretch.”

On Wednesday morning, Fox News host Bill Hemmer said, “Democrats — and well, some journalists — are getting on the scene about the big ‘I’ word before getting that memo and, frankly, getting facts.”

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., told The Hill newspaper on Wednesday that if the reports about Trump’s pressure on Comey are true, it would be grounds for impeachment.

“But everybody gets a fair trial in this country,” Amash added.

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