Merkley: Trump ‘absolutely’ tried to intimidate Comey

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) told MSNBC on Friday that President Trump’s tweet threatening James Comey with possible “tapes” of their meeting was “absolutely” an attempt to intimidate the former FBI director.

Asked by MSNBC’s Nicole Wallace if he agreed with Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) that the tweet constituted something more than a bluff, Merkley agreed that it did.

“Oh absolutely, it looks like an attempt at intimidation,” Merkley said. “If you don’t have tapes and you say that, you’re obviously trying to persuade someone not to testify, and that wasn’t the only time he’s done that.”

Merkley said Trump has a pattern of trying to intimidate Comey and others into following his orders.

“[Trump] pressured him when he was in the office,” Merkley continued. “He’s pressured other individuals. Certainly Dan Coats, and so forth. We see case after case after case of a president obsessed with Russia and wanting to suppress the conversation.”

Merkley called Trump’s actions “suspicious.” While he cautioned that the most “interesting” testimony would likely occur in closed-door sessions of the House and Senate intelligence committees, Merkley asserted that the American people have a right to hear what has been declassified so far.

“Most of the really interesting testimony will be in private with the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, but the American people have a right to what’s going on with the things that are unclassified, about real conversations in the White House over these issues,” Merkley said. “We need to hear what’s going on.”

The Oregon Democrat wouldn’t go as far as to say that Trump’s tweet constituted obstruction of justice, saying he’d leave that question up to the lawyers.

“It certainly constituted pressure, and I’ll leave it to the lawyers to say whether it was obstruction of justice. He has now many times attempted to slow down and block and discount this investigation,” Merkley said.

“This is absolutely a president trying to derail an investigation.”