p. 78 – 87

Background leading up to Trump’s attempt to fire Special Counsel

“On May 17, 2017, Acting Attorney General Rosenstein appointed Robert S. Mueller, III as Special Counsel and authorized him to conduct the Russia investigation and matters that arose from the investigation. The President learned of the Special Counsel’s appointment from Sessions,…The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, ‘How could you let this happen, Jeff?’…Sessions recalled that the President said to him, ‘you were supposed to protect me,’ or words to that effect…The President then told Sessions he should resign as Attorney General. Sessions agreed to submit his resignation and left the Oval Office.”

“In the days following the Special Counsel’s appointment, the President repeatedly told advisors, including Priebus, Bannon, and McGahn, that Special Counsel Mueller had conflicts of interest. The President cited as conflicts that Mueller had interviewed for the FBI Director position shortly before being appointed as Special Counsel, that he had worked for a law firm that represented people affiliated with the President, and that Mueller had disputed certain fees relating to his membership in a Trump golf course in Northern Virginia.” His advisors told him that these did not count as true conflicts of interest.

“McGahn advised that the President could discuss the issue with his personal attorney but it would ‘look like still trying to meddle in [the]investigation’ and ‘knocking out Mueller’ would be ‘[a]nother fact used to claim obst[ruction] of just[ice].’ McGahn told the President that his ‘biggest exposure’ was not his act of firing
Corney but his ‘other contacts’ and ‘calls,’ and his ‘ask re: Flynn.””

“On Monday, June 12, 2017, Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax Media and a longtime friend of the President’s, met at the White House with Priebus and Bannon. Ruddy recalled that they told him the President was strongly considering firing the Special Counsel and that he would do so precipitously, without vetting the decision through Administration officials….Ruddy later told another news outlet that ‘Trump is definitely considering’ terminating the Special Counsel and ‘it’s not something that’s being dismissed.’ Ruddy’s comments led to extensive coverage in the media that the President was considering firing the Special Counsel.”

“The President ‘s personal counsel contacted the Special Counsel’s Office and raised concerns about possible conflicts. The President’s counsel cited Mueller’s previous partnership in his law firm, his interview for the FBI Director position, and an asserted personal relationship he had with Comey. That same day, Rosenstein had testified publicly before Congress and said he saw no evidence of good cause to terminate the Special Counsel, including for conflicts of interest.”

“Two days later, on June 15, 2017 , the Special Counsel’s Office informed the Acting Attorney General’s office about the areas of concern raised by the President’s counsel and told the President’s counsel that their concerns had been communicated to Rosenstein so that the Department of Justice could take any appropriate action.”

President tries to fire Special Counsel

“On the evening of June l4, 2017, the Washington Post published an article stating that the Special Counsel was investigating whether the President had attempted to obstruct justice. This was the first public report that the President himself was under investigation by the Special Counsel’s Office, and cable news networks quickly picked up on the report.”

“On Saturday, June 17, 2017, the President called [White House Counsel Don] McGahn and directed him to have the Special Counsel removed. McGahn was at home and the President was at Camp David. In interviews with this Office, McGahn recalled that the President called him at home twice and on both occasions directed him to call [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein and say that Mueller had conflicts that precluded him from serving as Special Counsel.”

“McGahn was perturbed by the call and did not intend to act on the request. He and other advisors believed the asserted conflicts were ‘silly’ and ‘not real,’ and they had previously communicated that view to the President. McGahn also had made clear to the President that the White House Counsel’s Office should not be involved in any effort to press the issue of conflicts.”

“When the President called McGahn a second time to follow up on the order to call the Department of Justice, McGahn recalled that the President was more direct, saying something like, ‘Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can ‘t be the Special Counsel.’ McGahn recalled the President telling him ‘Mueller has to go’ and ‘Call me back when you do it.’ “

“McGahn understood the President to be saying that the Special Counsel had to be removed by Rosenstein. To end the conversation with the President, McGahn left the President with the impression that McGahn would call Rosenstein. McGahn recalled that he had already said no to the President’s request and he was worn down , so he just wanted to get off the phone.”

“McGahn recalled feeling trapped because he did not plan to follow the President’s directive but did not know what he would say the next time the President called. McGahn decided he had to resign.”

“That evening, McGahn called both Priebus and Bannon and told them that he intended to resign. McGahn recalled that, after speaking with his attorney and given the nature of the President’s request, he decided not to share details of the President’s request with other White House staff. Priebus recalled that McGahn said that the President had asked him to ‘do crazy shit,’ but he thought McGahn did not tell him the specifics of the President’s request because McGahn was trying to protect Priebus from what he did not need to know. Priebus and Bannon both urged McGahn not to quit, and McGahn ultimately returned to work that Monday and remained in his position. He had not told the President directly that he planned to resign, and when they next saw each other the President did not ask McGahn whether he had followed through with calling Rosenstein.”

“Around the same time, Chris Christie recalled a telephone call with the President in which the President asked what Christie thought about the President firing the Special Counsel. Christie advised against doing so because there was no substantive basis for the President to fire the Special Counsel, and because the President would lose support from Republicans in Congress if he did so.”

 

 

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