Shortly after the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller in May, Acting Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe told several of the highest-ranking managers of the bureau they should consider themselves possible witnesses in any investigation into whether President Donald Trump engaged in obstruction of justice, according to two senior federal law enforcement officials.
McCabe has told colleagues that he too is a potential witness in the probe of whether Trump broke the law by trying to thwart the FBI’s Russia investigation and the investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with the Russian government to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.
Two senior federal law enforcement officials have told me that the new revelations illustrate why they believe the potential case against Trump is stronger than outsiders have thought.
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“What you are going to have is the potential for a powerful obstruction case,” a senior law enforcement official said. “You are going to have the [former] FBI director testify, and then the acting director, the chief of staff to the FBI director, the FBI’s general counsel, and then others, one right after another. This has never been the word of Trump against what [James Comey] has had to say. This is more like the Federal Bureau of Investigation versus Donald Trump.”
Trump and his supporters have long argued that it would be difficult, if not impossible, for the special counsel to bring an obstruction case against Trump. The case would rely on the word of one man versus another, that of the president of the United States versus the director of the FBI he fired. But this was never the case.
Including Comey, as many as 10, and possibly more, of the nation’s most senior law enforcement officials are likely to be questioned as part of the investigation into whether Trump committed obstruction of justice, according to two government investigators with first-hand knowledge of the matter. Comey’s notes on his conversations could also be used as evidence, according to many reports.
The White House declined to comment. First contacted by email by on July 27, White House spokesperson Kelly Love responded late Wednesday saying, “This would be a question for outside counsel.” Love did not name which of the president’s many lawyers to contact. Marc E. Kasowitz, an attorney for the president, did not respond to a phone message Wednesday evening. The FBI also declined to comment.
FBI agents experienced witnesses who routinely testify in high-pressure cases. Plus, the FBI itself is a rare public institution that is widely respected and trusted by the American public. The witness list and breadth of possible evidence, including notes Comey and several other senior FBI officials made at the time, could add up to a much stronger obstruction of justice case than Trump could have ever imagined.
Among those who McCabe and other law enforcement officials have privately believed are potential witnesses are six of the highest-ranking officials of the agency: They include McCabe himself; Jim Rybicki, Comey’s chief of staff; James Baker, the general counsel of the FBI; David Bowditch, who as the FBI’s associate director is the agency’s third highest official; Carl Ghattas, the head of the FBI’s national security division, and a legal adviser to McCabe. McCabe was deputy director of the FBI until May, when he became acting director after President Trump fired Comey.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and a third senior Justice Department official are believed by law enforcement officials to be crucial fact witnesses in the obstruction probe. Their testimony is likely to support Comey and harm Trump, according to investigators and outside experts.