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President Trump "likely obstructed justice" and could possibly face impeachment for firing FBI Director James Comey if special counsel Robert Mueller reaches the same conclusion, a new analysis from The Brookings Institution found.
In a report released Tuesday, the left-leaning think tank said that Trump had authority to fire the FBI chief, but not if his motives for doing so centered around hindering the ongoing Russia probe.
"Attempts to stop an investigation represent a common form of obstruction. Demanding the loyalty of an individual involved in an investigation, requesting that individual's help to end the investigation, and then ultimately firing that person to accomplish that goal are the type of acts that have frequently resulted in obstruction convictions," the Brookings analysts said in the report.
"The fact that the president has lawful authority to take a particular course of action does not immunize him if he takes that action with the unlawful intent of obstructing a proceeding for an improper purpose," they wrote, pointing to evidence they say shows Trump attempted to prevent "damaging information about Trump, his campaign, his family, or his top aides" from getting out.
If Mueller also concludes that the president obstructed justice, Trump could face impeachment charges, according to the analysis. But impeachment would require congressional support, which is unlikely to come from Republican leadership.
"We of course recognize that their investigation is ongoing, and many facts are still to be determined," the analysts concluded. "With that caveat, our review of the facts and the law leads us to the view that the president likely obstructed justice. Should that conclusion be borne out, we believe he will be held to account under one or another of the vehicles we have outlined, for no one is above the law in our system."
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the analysis.