Tags: Donald Trump | Russia Probe | Trump Administration | obstruction | justice | fbi | special counsel

NYT: Experts Question Strength of Mueller's Obstruction Evidence

Image: NYT: Experts Question Strength of Mueller's Obstruction Evidence
FBI special counsel Robert Mueller (Rex Features/AP)

By    |   Thursday, 04 January 2018 09:07 PM

FBI special counsel Robert Mueller has learned about several previously unreported episodes that could tie President Donald Trump to a possible crime of obstruction of justice — but experts are divided about whether it is enough to bring a case, The New York Times reported Thursday.

According to the Times, the unreported episodes include Trump's instructions in March to the White House's top lawyer, Donald McGahn, to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself in the Justice Department's investigation into whether Trump's associates had helped a Russian campaign to disrupt the 2016 election.

McGahn lobbied Sessions to remain in charge of the inquiry, the Times reported.

When it did not work, Trump erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him the way he believed Robert Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John Kennedy and Eric Holder had for Barack Obama.

"Where's my Roy Cohn?" Trump asked, referring to his former personal lawyer and fixer, who had been Sen. Joseph McCarthy's top aide during the investigations into communist activity in the 1950s, the Times reported.

Among the other episodes, according to the Times, Trump described the Russia investigation as "fabricated and politically motivated" in a letter he intended to send to FBI Director James Comey — but White House aides stopped him from sending it.

Mueller has also substantiated claims Comey made in a series of memos describing troubling interactions with the president before he was fired in May, the Times reported.

The special counsel has also received handwritten notes from Trump's former chief of staff, Reince Priebus, showing Trump talked to Priebus about how he had called Comey to urge him to say publicly he was not under investigation, the Times reported.

The president's determination to fire Comey even led one White House lawyer to take the extraordinary step of misleading Trump about whether he had the authority to do so; he did, the Times reported.

The Times also reported it learned four days before Comey was fired, one of Sessions' aides asked a congressional staff member whether he had damaging information about Comey, part of an apparent effort to undermine Comey.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the incident did not occur.

"This did not happen and would not happen – plain and simple," DOJ spokeswoman, Sarah Isgur Flores said.

Mueller has also been examining a false statement the president dictated on Air Force One in July in response to an article in the Times about a meeting Trump campaign officials had with Russians during the campaign.

A new book, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," by Michael Wolff, says the president's lawyers believed the statement was "an explicit attempt to throw sand into the investigation's gears," and it led one of Trump's spokesmen to quit because he believed it constituted obstruction of justice, the Times reported.

The Times reported legal experts said of two primary issues Mueller appears to be investigating — whether the president obstructed justice while in office and whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia — there is a larger body of public evidence tying the president to a possible crime of obstruction.

But the experts are divided about whether the accumulated evidence is enough for Mueller to bring that case, lacking evidence the president ever told witnesses to lie under oath, the Times reported.

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Experts are divided about whether FBI special counsel Robert Mueller's evidence to possibly tie President Donald Trump to a possible crime of obstruction of justice is enough to bring a case, according to The New York Times.
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2018-07-04
Thursday, 04 January 2018 09:07 PM
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