Former FBI Director James Comey's statement showed that President Donald Trump "either doesn't understand or doesn't care about the long-standing importance of the independence of the FBI director," Sen. Chris Coons said Thursday morning.
"What struck me is that it is completely unacceptable for the president to ask the FBI director to be personally loyal to him and to ask the FBI director to drop it with regards to an ongoing investigation into his former national security adviser," the Delaware Democrat told MSNBC's "Morning Joe" program.
"I think when FBI Director Jim Comey gets his chance to testify today, it will reinforce to the American people that we have a significant problem with a president who is engaged in certainly unwise, certainly unethical conduct in the White House," the senator continued.
As an attorney, however, Coons said he'd approach "very carefully" a question over whether Comey's statement revealed a potential case of obstruction of justice.
"I think that's the point of having an investigation led by [former FBI Director] Bob Mueller, a very seasoned, senior law enforcement official," said Coons.
"As I said, I think the statements we'll hear today from former FBI Director Jim Comey make it clear that the president crossed a line, the president engaged in unwise and unethical conduct. Whether it meets the line of obstruction of justice is up for the prosecutor to make."
Still, Coons said, the statement suggest to "all of us in the United States Senate that we've got a president who is operating well outside the acceptable boundaries . . .I think that's frankly why you don't have Republican senators on the show this morning defending President Trump's actions."
However, Coons would not say if he saw anything illegal in the Comey statement, but it is "right up against that line."
"There are key issues of intent and context," the senator said. "Certainly, if I were being asked to make a judgment on that, I think there's reason to."
Coons also said he believes the intense scrutiny on the president and the investigation into collusion with Russia is having an impact with the United State's ability to conduct foreign policy.
"I just returned from an Asia-Pacific regional security conference in Singapore," Coons said. "I traveled with two senior Republicans, John McCain, chairman of Armed Services and John Barrasso. We went to Singapore and met with seven different leaders in the region. They're gravely concerned to the extent the United States is distracted."
Further, Coons said he went to a previous conference with McCain a few months ago and heard the same things from eastern European and NATO allies.
As for Coons himself, he said he's "sad and angry" over the ongoing controversy.
"I'm sad I introduced a bipartisan bill about manufacturing yesterday and we're not going to talk about that it frankly probably won't move," Coons said.
"I'm angry with this president that he's taken us so far off course from what was a well-established path of independence from the FBI and federal law enforcement."
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