Trump reportedly wanted to order the DOJ to prosecute Comey and Clinton

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

Trump reportedly wanted to order the DOJ to prosecute Comey and Clinton

Donald Trump
Trump has repeatedly tried to weaponize the DOJ against his rivals.
 Christian Hartmann/Reuters
  • President Donald Trump reportedly wanted to order the DOJ to prosecute former FBI director James Comey and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
  • Trump only backed down when then White House counsel Don McGahn told him he didn’t have the power to order investigations into his political rivals.
  • The move is the latest in a series of documented efforts in which Trump has tried to use the DOJ as a weapon against his perceived enemies.

President Donald Trump wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his biggest political rivals but backed down when he was told he didn’t have the authority to do that, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

Trump wanted the DOJ to investigate former FBI director James Comey and former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, according to the report. But when the president floated the idea to then White House counsel Don McGahn in the spring, McGahn is said to have told Trump he couldn’t order the DOJ to conduct investigations.

McGahn reportedly added that Trump could request an investigation, but that the move would likely spark a public outcry and accusations that he was abusing his power.

After The Times’ story broke, CNN reported that Trump also broached the topic of investigating Clinton and Comey with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.

One source told CNN that Whitaker came prepared to answer questions about what the DOJ was doing on matters related to Clinton, including the Clinton Foundation and the Uranium One deal. The person reportedly added that while Whitaker was trying to capitulate to the president, he did not appear to cross any line.

Tuesday’s revelation is the latest in a series of documented efforts Trump has made to exert control over the nation’s top law-enforcement agency. The DOJ is meant to be independent of the White House, but Trump has previously shown that he believes it is a political tool to be wielded against his perceived enemies.

In addition to publicly pressuring the DOJ to prosecute his rivals, Trump once reportedly asked advisers why he couldn’t have “my guys” at the “Trump Justice Department” do his bidding.

Trump has long harbored resentment toward both Comey and Clinton. When he ran against the former first lady in the 2016 election, Trump and his surrogates regularly led chants calling to “lock her up” in response to revelations that Clinton used a private email server to conduct government business when she was secretary of state.

He initially backed down after he won the presidency, but Trump soon resumed his calls for her prosecution when Clinton began criticizing him after the election, and as the FBI began investigating his campaign’s contacts with Russia.

Comey, meanwhile, moved into Trump’s crosshairs when he publicly confirmed the existence of the Russia investigation last March, shortly after Trump took office.

Subsequent reporting and congressional testimony revealed that after Trump learned of the investigation, he repeatedly pressured Comey to publicly state he was not personally under investigation, or to drop the probe entirely. When Comey refused, Trump fired him and later publicly stated he ousted the FBI director because of the Russia investigation.

Comey’s firing now makes up the basis of a separate inquiry, overseen by the special counsel Robert Mueller, into whether Trump sought to obstruct justice in the Russia probe.

When Comey began publicly criticizing Trump after his removal, the president called for prosecutors to investigate Comey for leaking classified information to The Times when he had his friend share a memo with the paper that documented some of what Comey believed were his most troubling interactions with the president. The memo did not contain any classified information.

He has also called for Comey and other current and former FBI and DOJ officials to be investigated over their handling of the Clinton email probe during the election.

SEE ALSO: In a ‘self-defeating and self-incriminating’ slipup, Trump just indicated he installed Matthew Whitaker to kill the Russia probe

Whitaker backlash prompts concern at the White House

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

Whitaker backlash prompts concern at the White House

(CNN)There is a growing sense of concern inside the White House over the negative reaction to Matthew Whitaker being tapped as acting attorney general after Jeff Sessions’ abrupt firing.

Whitaker, who was Sessions’ chief of staff, has faced criticism since Wednesday afternoon’s announcement for his previous comments on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
Several senior officials told CNN they were surprised by the criticism, and believe it could potentially jeopardize Whitaker’s chances of remaining in the post if it continues to dominate headlines.
Whitaker is expected to take over oversight of Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether Trump campaign associates colluded with Russia. He has given no indication he believes he needs to step aside from overseeing the probe, according to one person familiar with his thinking, a belief echoed by White House officials. And a source close to the President told CNN that the idea of Whitaker ending or suppressing the Russia probe is not an option as of now.
But Whitaker has previously expressed deep skepticism about the probe, including arguing in a 2017 CNN op-ed that Mueller was “dangerously close to crossing” a red line following reports that the special counsel was looking into Trump’s finances and calling Mueller’s appointment “ridiculous” and “a little fishy” in a 2017 appearance on the “Rose Unplugged” radio program.
Whitaker also spoke about the investigation in numerous other radio and television appearances, including CNN, where he was a legal commentator.
It was not widely known among White House staff that he’d commented repeatedly on the special counsel’s investigation in interviews and on television — which is ironic given that this is what drew President Donald Trump to him and raises continued questions over the depth of the administration’s vetting process.
Sam Clovis, a 2016 Trump campaign national chairman who has close ties to Whitaker, encouraged him to get a regular commentary gig on cable television to get Trump’s attention, according to friends Whitaker told at the time. Whitaker was hired as a CNN legal commentator last year for several months before leaving the role in September 2017 to head to the Justice Department.
Along with the breadth of his previous comments on the investigation, there have been questions about the legality of Whitaker’s appointment.
George Conway, the husband of White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, co-authored a New York Times op-ed published Thursday that called the appointment “unconstitutional.”
The Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2, Conway wrote, “means Mr. Trump’s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It’s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does, or tries to do, in that position is invalid.”
Whitaker’s standing ultimately depends on the President. But continued negative coverage will get Trump’s attention.
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