TrumpWatch, Day 225: Mueller Has Draft of Trump Letter to Fire FBI’s Comey

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Donald Trump with then FBI Director James Comey

Trump’s letter drafted after seeing only daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Kushner, and advisor Miller


Developments on Day 224 of the Trump Administration:

See also How Donald Trump Speaks the “True Language of Populism”
Chief of Staff Kelly v. Donald Trump

Trump’s Draft Letter Could Back Obstruction of Justice Claims

Special Counsel, Robert Mueller has a draft letter from Donald Trump setting out his reasons for firing FBI Director James Comey over the Trump-Russia investigation.

The contents of the letter, written days before Trump’s dismissal of Comey on May 9, have not been revealed. However, they could bolster a case that Trump tried to shut down the inquiry — and thus obstructed justice — with the firing.

White House counsel Don McGahn blocked the draft because of its angry, rambling tone, according to information from “a dozen administration officials and others briefed on the matter”. McGahn was concerned that Trump referred to his private conversations with Comey, where — according to the FBI Director — Trump asked for his personal loyalty, requested the dropping of the FBI’s investigation into former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and persistently sought reassurances that he was not a subject of the inquiry.

A copy of the draft was given to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who set out a far different rationale: namely, that Comey had mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mail servers.

But Trump ripped up that official explanation within three days with televised remarks that he had removed Comey because of the Russia investigation, and then by the revelation that Trump had boasted to visiting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of his firing of the “crazy”, “nut job” FBI Director.

Trump’s Dictated “Screed”

Trump drafted his letter over the first weekend in May at his golf club in New Jersey. He consulted only his daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and hard-right advisor Stephen Miller.

After Miller and Kushner both said they favored getting rid of Comey, Trump dictated his thoughts to Miller, who then wrote a multi-page “screed”, according to several sources.

Copies of the letter were handed out on Monday in the Oval Office to senior officials, including McGahn and Vice President Mike Pence, as Trump read portions aloud. Alarmed that Trump had made his decision after seeing only the three people with him in New Jersey, McGahn began his effort to contain the draft.


Essential Reading: Manafort’s Connection to 2006 Attack on US Marines

Adam Weinstein explains how Paul Manafort — later the controversial campaign manager for Donald Trump and now under investigation in the Trump-Russia inquiry — is connected to an attack in 2006 on US Marines in Ukraine.

On a NATO exercise, the marines were pinned in for weeks in the Crimean Peninsula by protesters before they withdrew, having accomplished little.

US officials say the protests were organized by the pro-Kremlin Party of Regions — whose leader, future Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych, was being advised by Manafort’s consultancy in return for $20 million.


Essential Reading: Trump’s Suspect $1 Million Donation for Hurricane Harvey Relief

Think Progress highlights the doubts around Donald Trump’s pledge of $1 million for relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

On Thursday, Trump declared that he would give the $1 million, but yesterday White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders could not say if the money would come from Trump personally or from the Trump Foundation. Other outlets then noted that the Trump Foundation cannot make the donation, as it is currently under investigation.

The website notes that “during Trump’s Apprentice days, donations he claimed would be coming out of his own pocket were in fact made by his foundation”, and that the foundation’s record is far stellar:

The foundation paid a $2,500 penalty for an improper $25,000 gift in 2013 to a committee supporting Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, who was considering an investigation of his Trump University at the time and later opted not to open one.

Additionally, [The Washington Post’s David] Fahrenthold found that Trump used more than $250,000 of the money raised by the his foundation to settle legal problems for his myriad business interests. Additionally, he used $10,000 of foundation money to buy a portrait of himself at a charity fundraiser, $20,000 from the Trump Foundation to buy a different portrait of himself, and $12,000 from the tax-exempt foundation to buy an autographed Tim Tebow football helmet. A $5,000 foundation donation to the D.C. Preservation League Tax was used to obtain ad space for Trump hotels. Experts told the Post that these payments would appear to be “classic self-dealing,” in violation of tax law and philanthropic conventions.

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