Special counsel Robert Mueller’s redacted report paints vivid behind-the-scenes pictures of President Trump’s private fury about the Russia investigation.
While much of this fuming happened in public, the redacted report out Thursday contains new one-on-one conversations that Trump had with those in his inner circle about Mueller’s appointment and the toll the probe would take on his presidency.
The most eye-popping examples are below.
Trump thought firing Flynn would end “the Russia thing”
The report describes a lunch ex-Gov. Chris Christie had with Trump on Feb. 14, 2017, the day after Trump ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Christie told the special counsel that Trump said, “’Now that we fired Flynn, the Russia thing is over.’”
“’No way,’” Christie said he replied, laughing. “’[W]e’ll be here on Valentine’s Day 2017 talking about this.’”
Per Christie, Trump replied, “’[w]hat do you mean? Flynn met with the Russians. That was the problem. I fired Flynn. It’s over.’”
But the former New Jersey governor and federal prosecutor said that was not his experience with how these sort of probes go.
“Christie said there was no way to make an investigation shorter, but a lot of ways to make it longer,” according to the paraphrased version of the conversation included in the report.
Trump said his presidency was “fucked” after Mueller was appointed
After Trump learned that a special counsel was appointed, he said his presidency was as good as over. According to notes written by Jody Hunt—then chief of staff to Attorney General Jeff Sessions—Trump “slumped back in his chair and said, ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my Presidency. I’m fucked.’”
“The President became angry and lambasted the Attorney General for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating, ‘How did you let this happen, Jeff,’” the report continues, paraphrasing Hunt’s notes.
Sessions himself told the special counsel that Trump said, “’You were supposed to protect me,’ or words to that effect,” according to the report.
“’Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,’” Trump continued, per the report. “’It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Trump then told Sessions he should resign.
Hope Hicks likened Trump’s rage at Mueller’s appointment to his reaction to the Access Hollywood tape
Hope Hicks, then a top-White House press official, told the special counsel that she saw Trump shortly after his conversation urging Sessions to resign for allowing Mueller’s appointment.
“Hicks said that she had only seen the President like that one other time, when the Access Hollywood tape came out during the campaign,” the report reads.
Trump tried to enlist McGahn to oust Mueller, and then to lie about that
In a remarkable series of events laid out over several pages, the report details how Trump tried to enlist White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, and then, months later, to lie about the incident.
This all started in June 2017, when Trump first learned from the Washington Post that he was under investigation by Mueller for obstruction of justice. The President promptly asked McGahn to get rid of Mueller over the supposed “conflicts of interest” on his team.
McGahn thought these asserted conflicts were “silly” and “not real,” as he told Mueller. He also said he wanted no role in asking Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to get rid of Mueller, telling the special counsel he grew up in the Reagan era and wanted to be more like Judge
Robert Bork than “‘Saturday Night Massacre Bork.’”
McGahn told Mueller he felt trapped by Trump’s repeated requests to “’call Rod’” and trigger Mueller’s ouster, saying he planned to quit instead. McGahn told then-Chief of Staff Reince Priebus as much, saying that Trump has asked him to “’do crazy shit,’” as Priebus recalled it. He ultimately stayed put.
Then, in January 2018, the New York Times reported on Trump’s efforts to have McGahn get rid of Mueller, and McGahn’s threats to quit. Trump’s attorneys then urged McGahn to publicly discredit the story in a statement, but McGahn, through his own attorney, refused to do so.
Trump lashed out to to then-White House adviser Rob Porter, calling McGahn a “lying bastard” and threatening to “get rid of” his White House counsel if he wouldn’t refute the story, as Porter told Mueller.
McGahn held firm over several more days of pressure to refute the story. In a Feb. 6, 2018 Oval Office meeting, Trump asked McGahn why he had been honest with the special counsel’s office about these attempts to remove Mueller. McGahn said he was required to do so, and that their conversations weren’t covered by attorney-client privilege.
“What-about these notes? Why do you take notes? Lawyers don’t take notes. I never had a lawyer who took notes,” Trump said, according to what McGahn told Mueller’s team.
McGahn responded that he was a “real lawyer.”
“I’ve had a lot of great lawyers, like Roy Cohn,” Trump replied, per McGahn. “He did not take notes.”