To be sure, Donald Trump did not need any more bad press on Thursday.
The steady stream of leaked excerpts from Michael Wolff’s new book, “Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House”, have done irreparable harm to an administration that everyone already suspected was the very definition of dysfunctional.
Worse, the President is now engaged in a public war of words with former chief strategist Steve Bannon. That row has the potential to splinter Trump’s base, with the hardline populist faction siding with Bannon leaving the remainder pigeonholed and doomed to a begrudging acceptance of the same kind of mainstream GOP politics that Trump promised to eradicate.
Meanwhile, Wolff is now openly gloating on social media:
Here we go. You can buy it (and read it) tomorrow. Thank you, Mr. President.
— Michael Wolff (@MichaelWolffNYC) January 4, 2018
But you know what they say, “no rest for the weary” and so, The New York Times is out with a bombshell piece shedding new light on the obstruction case against the President.
According to the Times, Trump instructed Don McGahn to literally forbid Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia probe. Two sources close to matter say McGahn tried to compel Sessions to change his mind, but to no avail.
That, the Times says, “is one of several previously unreported episodes that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, has learned about as he investigates whether Trump obstructed the F.B.I.’s Russia inquiry.” Here’s a bit about the other “episodes”:
Mr. Trump described the Russia investigation as “fabricated and politically motivated” in a letter that he intended to send to the F.B.I. director at the time, James B. Comey, but that White House aides stopped him from sending. Mr. Mueller has also substantiated claims that Mr. Comey made in a series of memos describing troubling interactions with the president before he was fired in May.
The special counsel has received handwritten notes from Mr. Trump’s former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, showing that Mr. Trump talked to Mr. Priebus about how he had called Mr. Comey to urge him to say publicly that he was not under investigation. The president’s determination to fire Mr. Comey even led one White House lawyer to take the extraordinary step of misleading Mr. Trump about whether he had the authority to remove him.
The New York Times has also learned that four days before Mr. Comey was fired, one of Mr. Sessions’s aides asked a congressional staff member whether he had damaging information about Mr. Comey, part of an apparent effort to undermine the F.B.I. director. It was not clear whether Mr. Mueller’s investigators knew about this incident.
The Times goes on to say that Mueller is also looking into a false statement that Trump dictated aboard Air Force One in July. That would appear to be the same story as that described by Wolff. Wonkette lampooned the debacle in a piece we reprinted here earlier this evening.
The Times says their information is “based on documents” they reviewed first-hand “as well as interviews with White House officials and others briefed on the investigation.”
Needless to say, this will not please a President who earlier this week lashed out on Twitter as follows:
The bolded bit in the excerpts above is especially noteworthy. Apparently, one of McGahn’s deputies was so unnerved by Trump’s explicit desire to dismiss Comey that he attempted to effectively fool the President into thinking he didn’t have the authority to remove the FBI Director. Here’s the Times:
Mr. Trump began to discuss openly with White House officials his desire to fire Mr. Comey. This unnerved some inside the White House counsel’s office, and even led one of Mr. McGahn’s deputies to mislead the president about his authority to fire the F.B.I. director.
The lawyer, Uttam Dhillon, was convinced that if Mr. Comey was fired, the Trump presidency could be imperiled, because it would force the Justice Department to open an investigation into whether Mr. Trump was trying to derail the Russia investigation.
Guess who else shared that concern? Steve Bannon, that’s who.
The Times piece ends by detailing how a furious Trump demanded Sessions’ resignation following Rod Rosenstein’s decision to appoint Robert Mueller as special counsel. When Sessions submitted his resignation letter it was returned with a hand-written note from Trump that read simply:
Look forward to more angry tweets starting first thing in the morning or, perhaps even later tonight if Trump feels like his “powerful button” has been pushed.