TrumpWatch, Day 351: Obstruction of Justice? Trump Tried to Block Sessions Recusal from Trump-Russia Inquiry

Jeff Sessions with Donald Trump at Trump Tower in New York, October 7, 2016

New information raises questions about Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey


Developments on Day 351 of the Trump Administration:

3 Trump Officials Appealed to Attorney General Not to Step Aside

Revelations that Donald Trump tried to halt the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the Trump-Russia inquiry raise more questions about possible obstruction of justice.

Trump gave instructions in March to White House lawyer Don McGahn to stop Sessions, who was compromised because of his meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the 2016 campaign.

When McGahn was unsuccessful, Trump angrily said in front of numerous White House officials that he need Sessions to protect him. Trump said he expected the Attorney General to safeguard him the way that Robert Kennedy supposedly had done for President John Kennedy and Eric Holder for Barack Obama.

Trump then asked, “Where’s my Roy Cohn?”, a reference to his former personal lawyer and fixer.

A “senior Administration official” said Press Secretary Sean Spicer and Chief of Staff Reince Priebus then made more calls to Sessions.

“I think it’s fair to call it pressure,” the official said. He asserted that Spicer, despite not being an attorney, said Sessions “doesn’t need to recuse himself.

Earlier Friday, Spicer claimed he was not aware of Trump’s request to McGahn to halt the recusal. After CNN revealed the comments of the senior Administration official, the former Press Secretary said his call to Sessions was only about a news conference.

Trump Under Scrutiny in Other Cases

Trump is reportedly already under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller over his dismissal of FBI Director James Comey in May in an effort to halt the inquiry.

In the latest revelations, Trump reportedly described the Russia investigation as “fabricated and politically motivated” in a letter that he intended to send to Comey at the time of the firing, but was stopped by White House aides from sending the message.

When Trump insisted on Comey’s dismissal, the White House pretext — in a memo by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein — was that it was over the FBI Director’s inappropriate behavior in the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. But Trump destroyed that line a few days later when he said in a TV interview that the Russia inquiry was the real reason.

Mueller has also reportedly received handwritten notes from Priebus, confirming that Trump talked to the Chief of Staff about how he had called Comey to urge him to say publicly that the President was not under investigation. Those notes would confirm Comey’s testimony about how Trump asked for a public clearance.

Four days before Comey was fired, one of Sessions’s aides asked a congressional staff member whether he had damaging information about the FBI Director, according to The New York Times.

The Special Counsel is also examining the allegation that Trump dictated a false statement for his son Donald Jr. about a June 2016 meeting with three Kremlin-linked envoys in Trump Tower in New York. Sources say that, returning aboard Air Force One from the G20 summmit in Germany in July 2017, Trump declared that the meeting — which also included his son-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort — was to discuss “adoptions”.

In fact, Trump Jr.’s e-mails confirmed that he arranged the encounter to hear a Russian proposal for delivery of material damaging Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

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Scott Lucas is Professor of International Politics at the University of Birmingham and editor-in-chief of EA WorldView. He is a specialist in US and British foreign policy and international relations, especially the Middle East and Iran. Formerly he worked as a journalist in the US, writing for newspapers including the Guardian and The Independent and was an essayist for The New Statesman before he founded EA WorldView in November 2008.

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