President Donald Trump raised multiple times with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and the former chief of staff to Jeff Sessions, Matthew Whitaker, whether the Justice Department was progressing in investigating Hillary Clinton, a person with knowledge of the matter said.
According to the source, Trump also wanted his former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to request from the department that it prosecute Clinton and ousted FBI Director James Comey, but was reportedly rebuffed. McGahn argued that requesting an investigation would constitute an abuse of power and may even lead to the President’s impeachment.
In a document they wrote several days after the President’s request, lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office likewise strongly advised him against asking the Justice Department to investigate anyone, pointing out to a number of possible consequences. For instance, Justice Department lawyers could refuse to follow his orders even before an investigation began, setting off another political firestorm. Furthermore, if charges were eventually brought, judges could dismiss them, the lawyers added.
The source added that Whitaker, on the other hand, tried to appease the President but without crossing any lines.
However, The New York Times reports that despite everything, Trump has continued to pursue prosecutions and discuss the matter privately. He has also repeatedly expressed disappointment in the FBI director, Christopher A. Wray, for failing to more aggressively investigate Clinton.
McGahn’s lawyer said his client would not comment “on his legal advice to the President” and refuted the reports saying, “the President never, to his knowledge, ordered that anyone prosecute Hillary Clinton or James Comey.”
Although it is unclear which accusations Trump sought prosecutors to pursue, the Times writes that he has accused Comey of illegally having classified information shared with the newspaper even though the document didn’t contain any classified information. President Trump’s lawyers also privately asked the Justice Department to investigate Comey for mishandling sensitive government information and for his role in the Clinton email investigation, but the request was declined.