Special Counsel Robert Mueller has learned that President Donald Trump took a number of steps to maintain control over the federal Russia investigation, including waging a campaign to keep Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from it, according to a New York Times report published Thursday.
Likely the most significant one: Trump ordered his White House Counsel, Don McGahn, to personally lobby Sessions to retain oversight of the probe, two people familiar with the matter told the Times. McGahn’s efforts were unsuccessful, and the Attorney General, under advice from career Justice Department officials, recused himself in late February.
These efforts on Trump’s part were uncovered as Mueller tries to determine whether the President obstructed justice by trying to derail the federal Russia investigation.
The Times also reported that Mueller’s team also has obtained the initial draft of a memo Trump planned to send to then-FBI Director James Comey, to justify his firing. White House aides stopped Trump from sending that letter, which described the investigation as “fabricated and politically motivated,” according to the Times.
As the Times and other publications have previously reported, Mueller’s team is also examining the false statement the President reportedly dictated about a June 2016 meeting campaign officials and his son Donald Trump Jr. had with a Kremlin-linked lawyer.
Finally, the Times reported that days before Trump fired Comey, an aide to Sessions asked a congressional staffer if he had any negative information about the FBI Director, saying the Attorney General wanted one damaging article about Comey to appear in the press daily.
Justice Department spokesperson Sarah Isgur Flores denied to the newspaper that the incident ever happened.
White House special counsel Ty Cobb declined to comment to the Times for the story.