The Justice Department has provided Special Counsel Robert Mueller with an early draft of a letter detailing President Donald Trump’s rationale for firing former FBI Director James Comey, The New York Times reports.
The letter, written by Trump and adviser Stephen Miller, was ultimately blocked by White House counsel Don McGahn, who believed some of its contents were problematic. Instead, a different letter written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein was sent, pinning the dismissal on Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, The New York Times writes.
Mueller is currently conducting a wide-ranging probe into Russian interference in the presidential campaign, including whether the president obstructed justice by firing Comey, who was previously in charge of the probe.
It is unknown how much of the rationale in the original letter focused on the Russia investigation. Shortly after Comey’s May 9 dismissal, the president told NBC’s Lester Holt that the probe had been on his mind when he made the decision to fire the FBI director.
“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said during an interview on “NBC Nightly News”.
“And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story,’ “ Trump added.
Miller, a former aide to Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he was in the Senate, reportedly drafted the letter at Trump’s request during a weekend in May at the president’s Bedminster, N.J., golf club. According to the Times, during that same weekend, Sessions and Rosenstein were working a parallel effort to dismiss Comey.
The former FBI chief had recently given testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee that it made him “mildly nauseous” to think his actions during the campaign might have impacted the outcome.
Comey had declared that there would be no charges against Clinton over her “homebrew” server before later alerting Congress that the FBI was examining new evidence 11 days before the election. Clinton has said his letter to lawmakers is one of the reasons she lost, The Hill writes.