A New York Times article published late on Thursday evening indicates that in June 2017 U.S. President Donald Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is tasked with overseeing the Russian investigation, according to 4 unnamed people told of the matter, but relented after White House Counsel Don McGahan threatened to resign rather than carry out his directive.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to lead a Justice Department investigation a month earlier on May 17, 2017, just eight days after President Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey who led the FBI Russian investigation and later testified before a Senate Intelligence Committee in June that President Trump requested him to pledge his loyalty during a private meeting on February 14th and requested that he drop the FBI investigation of his fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn.
The New York Times article on Thursday mentions that President Trump’s June directive to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller was the first time he had attempted to terminate him from his Justice Department appointment to lead the investigation.
After June reports surfaced in the media about Special Counsel Robert Mueller leading an obstruction of justice case, President Trump began to argue that Mr. Mueller had 3 conflicts of interests that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation, according to 2 people familiar with the matter.
The three conflicts of interests includes Mr. Robert Mueller previously terminating his membership from the Trump National Golf Club years earlier when he was serving as the director of the FBI, claims from President Trump that Mr. Mueller couldn’t remain impartial because he had recently worked in the same law firm as his son- in law Jared Kushner, and the fact he was interviewed to return as FBI director just one day before he was appointed as Special Counsel in May.
Around the time President Trump was seeking to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June, the president’s legal team, led by his personal lawyer Marc Kasowitz, was taking an adversarial approach to the Russian investigation, according to the New York Times, and were digging into conflict of interest issues concerning Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his legal team.
President Trump also considered in discussions with his own advisers the possibility of firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and elevating the Department’s number 3 official, Rachel Brand, to oversee Mr. Mueller.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was previously in charge of the Russian investigation since March when U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself on March 2nd related to any future investigations concerning the campaigns for President of the United States.
President Trump’s intent to interfere with the Russian investigation by ordering the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June following his firing of FBI Director James Comey in May and giving consideration of firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein all suggests that he was uneasy about the scope and tenor of the Russian investigation and was actively taking steps to eliminate perceived threats to his presidency.
The President’s cumulative actions, weighed together, raises questions about possible obstruction of justice charges and abuse of executive power while serving in the Office of U.S. President, even if he was prevented from taking these actions by White House Counsel Don McGahan and his own advisers.
CNN Legal Analyst Michael Zeldin said on CNN Tonight with host Don Lemon that it is “intent” that informs whether or not a combination of factors equals obstruction of justice and “this type of behavior is exactly what gave rise in the Nixon case in article 2 and in the Clinton case in article 3 for their articles of impeachment, may process article 2 for Nixon, impeachment article 3 for Clinton, for abuse of office.”
“And so it can be that this conduct, even if it doesn’t rise to the level of statutory obstruction of justice can rise to the high crimes and misdemeanors. Federalist papers 65, Hamilton explains the abuse of office and this is what this could rise to” Zeldin added.
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