Amid ongoing allegations that President Trump has sought to obstruct the Justice Department’s Russia probe, a new Washington Post report reveals that the White House Counsel last spring reached out to a top DOJ to request that then-FBI Director James Comey publicly state that Trump himself was not under investigation.
The April phone call between White House Counsel Don McGahn and Dana Boente — the Justice Department official who at the time was overseeing the probe — is one of many instances Washington Post details of McGahn’s struggles to assuage Trump’s demands. In May, Trump fired Comey.
The report goes on to recount other moments of tension between McGahn and Trump, as well as others on the White House legal team.
McGahn and Trump have had “spectacular fights,” one unnamed source told the Washington Post. At one point early on in the administration, McGahn was worried that the President was reaching out to the Justice Department behind his back, the Washington Post reported.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation is closely examining questions concerning potential obstruction of justice. Mueller was appointed after Trump fired Comey last year, in a letter that cited referenced Comey’s private assurances to Trump that he was not personally under investigation.
Mueller has reportedly obtained a draft version of that letter that is said to have been more focused on the Russia investigation.
According to Wednesday’s report, the call to Boente — who now is the FBI’s general counsel, but has held other top DOJ positions under Trump including Acting Deputy Attorney General — occurred in April, after Trump had personally lobbied Comey to make the public announcement.
Trump suggested to Comey — in one such conversation that Comey recounted in Senate testimony — he might have the White House reach out to Boente, after Comey mentioned that he had passed Trump’s request on to the Acting Deputy Attorney General.
When McGahn called Boente, he asked first whether it was appropriate matter for them to discuss, the Washington Post reported. McGahn was ultimately unsuccessful in convincing Boente that Comey should make the public statement, according to the report.
It was previously reported by the New York Times that Trump sought to fire Mueller last June, but backed down when McGahn signaled that he’s quit rather than carry out the order. McGahn was interviewed by Mueller’s team in late November and early December.
Wednesday’s Washington Post report revealed McGahn’s legal team had put together that 18-day timeline for the period between when then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates first warned McGahn that then-National Security Advisor Mike Flynn was misleading senior White House officials on Russian contacts and when Flynn was finally fired. That timeline, the Washington Post reported, has been turned over to Mueller.
McGahn has also come under fire for how he handled allegations of domestic abuse against a top White House aide. The aide, Porter, resigned last week, after the allegations became public. But the White House has continued to struggle to explain why Porter was allowed to continue to serve in his position, which included the handling of sensitive information, after it appeared that the allegations had come up in the FBI’s background check for a security clearance for him.
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