Did Trump just admit to obstruction of justice?

If Trump admits he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation, this could be his Watergate

By Keith A. Spencer
Published May 12, 2017 1:26AM (EDT)
Donald Trump; James Comey   (AP/Jim Lo Scalzo/Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)
Donald Trump; James Comey (AP/Jim Lo Scalzo/Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

In Lester Holt's interview with President Donald Trump on NBC Nightly News that aired on Thursday, the president defended his sacking of FBI director James Comey and, in a possible gaffe, seems to have admitted that he fired Comey in part because of the agency's ongoing investigation into the Trump campaign's collusion with the Russian government.

"I was going to fire Comey," Trump said defiantly. "When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.'"

The president then called the investigation "an excuse by the Democrats . . . an excuse for having lost an election."

Later, Trump insisted that Comey had told him "three times" that he was not under investigation, and detailed to Holt the circumstances of those three instances.

It is unclear if Trump understands the implications of mentioning the "made-up Russia story" in the same sentence that he discussed his reasons for firing Comey. If Trump were to admit that he fired Comey because he was irked by the FBI's investigation into the Trump campaign's possible connections to Russian election interference, he would be admitting to obstruction of justice.

That same charge was what ultimately led to President Richard Nixon's resignation. Nixon was investigated for obstruction of justice for his hand in covering up the break-in at the Watergate Hotel. With this latest gaffe, the parallels between the two presidents have become more glaring.

Keith A. Spencer

Keith A. Spencer is a senior editor for Salon. He manages Salon's science, tech, economy and health coverage. His book, "A People's History of Silicon Valley: How the Tech Industry Exploits Workers, Erodes Privacy and Undermines Democracy," was released in 2018. Follow him on Twitter at @keithspencer, or on Facebook here.

MORE FROM Keith A. SpencerFOLLOW keithspencer