Early on Friday, the New York Times reported on the existence of a letter from President Donald Trump, co-written by White House aide Stephen Miller, laying out his true motivations for firing then-FBI Director James Comey. That letter, the Times said, is now in the hands of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Comey’s ouster as a potential obstruction of justice.
Since then, more details have emerged.
What’s in the letter
The Wall Street Journal reported Friday night that a government official who had seen the contents of the scuttled draft letter said it concerned Trump’s unmet demand that Comey tell the public that he wasn’t personally under investigation.
Paraphrasing the letter, the administration official said Mr. Trump wanted this message sent: “You’ve told me three times I’m not under investigation but you won’t tell the world, and it’s hampering the country.”
The same official said Miller did not influence the content of the letter, which was ultimately never sent after White House counsel Don McGahn vetoed it, saying “its angry, meandering tone was problematic.”
“It was the president’s ideas. Miller was the scrivener,” the official told the WSJ.
A fateful rained-out golf game
Trump traveled to his private golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey in early May for some “golf and relaxation,” the WSJ reported.
That plan took a turn for the worse, the New York Times reported, due to inclement weather.
It rained during part of the weekend, forcing Mr. Trump to cancel golf with Greg Norman, the Australian golfer. Instead, Mr. Trump stewed indoors, worrying about Mr. Comey and the Russia investigation
Instead of hitting the links, he drafted a letter with Miller that the Washington Post’s sources described as a “rant” and the New York Times called a “screed.”
What did Pence know? What did Rosenstein know?
Vice President Mike Pence, who has repeatedly claimed ignorance of the Trump administration’s scandals in a manner that strains credulity, insisted at the time that Comey was fired purely on the DOJ’s recommendation and the move had nothing to do with the Russia investigation.
The New York Times and Washington Post have now reported, however, that Pence was present in Oval Office meetings on May 8 regarding Trump’s original letter calling for Comey’s firing and was handed a copy of that letter.
Constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe said Saturday that the reports suggest the Vice President committed a felony. “Pence hid what he knew about a serious federal crime,” he tweeted. “That looks like active concealment.”
The New York Times additionally reported that Rosenstein was shown a copy of the original “angry” letter that revealed Trump wanted to fire Comey over his handling of the Russia investigation.
Mr. McGahn successfully blocked the president from sending the letter — which Mr. Trump had composed with Stephen Miller, one of the president’s top political advisers — to Mr. Comey. But a copy was given to the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, who then drafted his own letter. Mr. Rosenstein’s letter was ultimately used as the Trump administration’s public rationale for Mr. Comey’s firing, which was that Mr. Comey had mishandled the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server.
- Contributions allow us to hire more journalists
- Contributions allow us to provide free memberships to those who cannot afford them
- Contributions support independent, non-corporate journalism