Although much of the media is focussed on the allegations in Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury, the New York Times let loose with an important article last night.
Michael S. Schmidt’s report in the New York Times contains so many blockbusters that it’s hard to know where to begin. Here are the most critical claims:
- Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has evidence, including a memo from former chief of staff Reince Priebus, confirming at least some of the allegations that former FBI director James B. Comey made and documented in contemporaneous memos. For instance, Priebus documents President Trump’s attempt to get Comey to publicly clear him, something Comey recounted at the time.
- The original draft of the letter firing Comey reportedly contained an introductory statement claiming that the Russia investigation was “fabricated and politically motivated.” The president’s aides prevailed upon him not to send it, but Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein (cleverly) took an original copy of the letter. He nevertheless drafted a memo setting out entirely different grounds for firing Comey (i.e. Comey’s handing of the Hillary Clinton emails and the false allegation that FBI morale was low).
- Trump was frantic to keep Attorney General Jeff Sessions in place to protect him in the Russia probe, dispatched the White House counsel to lean on Sessions not to recuse himself and then blew his stack when Sessions did recuse himself. He demanded an attorney general who would protect him the way that he imagined Robert Kennedy protected his brother President John F. Kennedy and Eric Holder protected President Barack Obama.
- A Sessions aide reportedly went looking for dirt on Comey, going to a congressional office for evidence several days before Comey was fired. Sessions apparently wanted one negative story a day on Comey in the media.
- A White House lawyer, Uttam Dhillon, reportedly lied to the president, telling him he could not fire Comey without cause, because he was afraid of what Trump would do.
So, this supports what Comey has testified to, and it implicates others – Kushner and Rosenstein among them — in the obstruction of justice issues.
As for Dhillon, this actually confirms author Michael Wolff’s ongoing refrain in his tell-all book that White House advisers considered Trump to be mentally and/or temperamentally incapable of doing his job. To continue to enable and defend him, knowing he is not capable of carrying out his oath, is a moral abomination and a violation of these advisers’ own oaths to defend the Constitution and country. Moreover, if Mueller has this information, it is because Dhillon and/or White House counsel Donald McGahn are talking to Mueller. Trump will now know that he is surrounded, in his mind, by disloyal people who are helping Mueller to make a case against him.
The walls are closing in on Trump, at least with respect to an obstruction-of-justice claim.