NYT: Trump Tried To Stop Sessions From Recusal

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_croppedThe New York Times is reporting that Special counsel Robert Mueller has confirmed that  President Donald Trump took the extraordinary step of ordering White House counsel Don McGahn to Attorney general Jeff Sessions to prevent him from recusing himself in the Russian investigation.  I was one of the earliest voices calling for Sessions to recuse himself and continue to believe that he made the right decision not only for himself and the Justice Department but Trump.  The account in the Times states that Trump was irate at hearing that Sessions would follow the advice of his ethics advisors and recuse himself. He allegedly asked why he does not have an Eric Holder or Roy Cohen to protect his interests. If true, it was a grossly inappropriate decision and an even more worrisome analogy. I have been a long critic of Holder and his highly political tenure at the Justice Department.  As for Roy Cohen, he is one of the most reviled and disreputable figures in history.  It would be akin to a CEO asking where is his Bernie Madoff to protect profits.  The accounts is based on two sources that are anonymous and we have not heard from the President.  Obviously, McGahn could also deny the truth of the story but we have not heard from either McGahn or Trump’s personal counsel.

The effort to convince Sessions not to recuse himself only adds to the concerns over obstruction and other allegations.  The use of the White House counsel is also troubling.  It is not clear what the grounds were for McGahn to encourage Sessions not to recuse himself.  As noted above, I viewed the necessity of recusal as clear and compelling.  It is highly problematic for McGahn to seek to block the decision under direct orders from someone who is a possible target of the investigation.  Most lawyers would have balked at the order and cautioned their client on the legal risks of such an intervention.  The allegation reinforces concerns over McGahn’s role as White House counsel in maintaining ethical lines.
In fairness to McGahn, he might have been trying to defuse an explosive situation in the Oval Office by appeasing the President. Reports indicate that McGahn quickly backed off when Sessions said that he was following the advice of his ethical advisers. It is not clear how much McGahn knew.  However, I still believe that the White House should have stayed well clear of the decision making at the Justice Department on both the investigation and the recusal.
Moreover, the impropriety of the alleged intervention turns significantly on the order of the events.  If McGahn was aware that Sessions had already made the decision to recuse himself, the effort to convince him to change his mind is inappropriate in my view.  If McGahn was only aware that Sessions was weighing his possible recusal, it is less alarming that he wanted to discuss the issue and its implications with the Attorney General.  It would still raise some concerns but it would not be as problematic as carrying out an order from a president to pressure the Attorney General to reverse his decision. The White House Counsel has a legitimate interest in who will be conducting or supervising an investigation of the President.  It would be much better to pursue such questions through aides to avoid even the appearance of pressure from the White House.  Once a decision has been made, it becomes much more problematic to have the President dispatch a high-ranking official to try to talk Sessions out of an ethical determination.
That does not mean that Trump has committed a crime or that this was an effort to conceal a crime. However, it certainly does not help.  Trump has long treated litigation as an extension of business.  This alleged action was taken around the same time of the other inappropriate comments alleged in meetings with Comey and others over the Russian investigation.  The President may have learned from those missteps.  The actions taken during that period ultimately compelled not only the appointment of a special counsel but magnify the legal risks for the President and his Administration.  Had Comey been fired at the outset of the Administration or left in office for the conclusion of the Russian investigation, it would likely be over by now for the President.
The decision of Sessions was the correct one on both an ethical and political basis.  The best thing for Trump was to remove any question of political interference and obstruction.  Otherwise, any investigation clearing the President would be marred by lingering questions and uncertainties.
In the same vein, the suggestions of Sessions being fired are mystifying.  Just as the firing of Comey made the situation exponentially worse, the firing of Sessions would reinforce allegations of obstruction and push the controversy into an even more precarious stage for the President.

220 thoughts on “NYT: Trump Tried To Stop Sessions From Recusal”

  1. The Republicans are sabotaging Mueller, the FBI, the Dept. of Justice, the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, the Media, and Hollywood.

    …All because a president, who is innocent of any and all charges, is under investigation for something he did not do.

  2. True patriots do everything to help Russian meddling in our elections and to help cover it up. Isn’t that what’s patriots are about?

    Apparently investigating a whistle blower like Steele is a lot more important than finding out if your president is a Russian puppet (he is–deutsch bank).

  3. ” The accounts is based on two sources that are anonymous and we have not heard from the President.”

    LMFAO

    1. More and more, I’m wondering how many of these NYT “anonymous sources” are either a) Comey, McCabe, Strzok, et al, or b) Russian agents influencing our processes by generating these stories and the fanning the flames.

      1. b) I thought Trump was Putin’s puppet, Why would Putin want to hurt his puppet?

        a) If there’s a serious question about the legality of something that the president has done, don’t you think the public has a right to know? It does seem that the “deep state” may be trying to undermine Trump’s presidency, and that’s not a good thing — not good for democracy. But if he really is guilty of crimes, then he should go, regardless of the motives of his opponents.

        1. The investigation is a secret criminal investigation. You are entitled to no information until the investigation is completed.

          That’s why the Republicans are sabotaging Mueller, the FBI, the Dept. of Justice, the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, the Media, and Hollywood.

          …All because a president who is innocent of any and all charges is under investigation for something he did not do.

    2. Perhaps we (and the president) are expected to suspend the wisdom of the dictum, “consider the source,” simply because the NYT wants us to. Kind of hard to consider the source if the source is anonymous. Sorry NYT. YOU, yourself, are no longer considered to be a source for me.

  4. “The New York Times is reporting that Special counsel Robert Mueller has confirmed that President Donald Trump took the extraordinary step of ordering White House counsel Don Mcahn to Attorney general Jeff Sessions to prevent him from recusing himself in the Russian investigation. ” – JT

    The article indicates two anonymous sources. I don’t see that Mueller has confirmed anything.

    “If McGahn was aware that Sessions had already made the decision to recuse himself, the effort to convince him to change his mind is inappropriate in my view. ” – JT

    “Unaware that Mr. Sessions had already decided to step aside from the inquiry, Democrats began calling for Mr. Sessions to recuse himself — and Mr. Trump told Mr. McGahn to begin a lobbying campaign to stop him.” – NYT

    Always good to check the source, can’t always trust a blog.

    1. Even obstruct justice?

      All you had to do was think for one second about your message. And you could not even do that.

      1. Under our system, the House has the sole power to indict the President and the Senate to judge such indictment.

        Regardless, what “justice” is he “obstructing.” What “crime” has occurred?

  5. Seriously, NYT?

    Are saying that the President of the United States of America actually attempted to do something?

    How dare he!

    Did Truman tell MacArthur how to conduct which operations and, ultimately, fire him? I’m guessing the commander-in-chief has as much authority over the AG and DOJ.

    Does the Constitution really say that the President shall appoint an AG and not tell him what to do? What did Bill Clinton tell AG Loretta Lynch to do on the tarmac at the Phoenix airport? Does the Constitution say the commander-In-chief shall not command?

    “Reason is the life of the law; nay, the common law itself is nothing less than reason.”

    — Edward Coke, First Institute [1628]

    Sessions should have fallen on his sword for President Trump. This battle should have been kept away from the presidency. The news each day should still be CNN carping and caterwauling that Sessions should have recused himself and that Comey should not have been fired. Instead, we have a weaponized, zealously ideological “Special Prosecutor,” with a history of purely political acts and no evidence, who is hell-bent on destroying his party’s opponent from the 2016 political campaign, simply because Hillary lost.

    It’s OK though. The Founders intended for successful businessmen to temporarily, literally serve the nation and then return to their enterprises. The Founders did not intend for them to be eaten alive by “career politicians” and career political operators on the public dole. What this whole affair exposes is not treason or criminality on the part of President Trump, but the coup d’etat in America being conducted by the “deep state” military/industrial/intel complex which President Trump has threatened with extinction.

    Nobody said that draining the “swamp” would be easy.

          1. They say a word to the wise is sufficient.

            May I suggest a modicum of decorum…

            cause you’re “…in need of some restraint…”

  6. “Had Comey been fired at the outset of the Administration or left in office for the conclusion of the Russian investigation, it would likely be over by now for the President.”

    Based upon a narrow inventory of Comey’s questionable actions (not including wild misconduct associated with allowing Hillary and/or the DNC to maintain control of the evidence concerning both the email crimes and the ALLEGED Russian hacking of the DNC), I doubt that anything would be over for the President if Comey had remained on the job.

    Consider, for instance, that Comey failed to notify Congress AS REQUIRED BY LAW when the FBI initially opened an investigation of the Trump campaign. Under Comey’s direction, the FBI undertook to secretly and lawlessly investigate Trump about the time that he accepted the presidential nomination in Cleveland. It was a blatant dodging of Congressional Oversight — a variation on James Clapper just outright committing perjury. Comey avoided that potential pitfall by simply not doing his duty to report to Congress.

    Or consider how Comey testified under oath that he told Trump that he was not under investigation, when the FACT is that Comey himself was conducting an off-the-record investigation of Trump — compiling detailed memos of his conversations with Trump (compared with ZERO memos of conversations with Obama, Lynch & Co.) — WHY? — because, as he testified before Congress, he didn’t trust Trump. That’s not really a legitimate basis for anyone in the FBI — including and especially the FBI Director — to conduct an investigation — and building a record of things Trump said IS part of conducting an investigation. Comey stayed on with the new administration for the purpose of being inside and in a position to sabotage — which is what he ended up doing. Comey’s stated reasons for leaking his “memos” about Trump were to assure the appointment of a special counsel — aka a person that would continue with Comey’s investigation of the president that Comey did not trust.

    There are other examples as well, and put together, they paint a portrait of Comey as a man who sees himself as having a license to do whatever he thinks is necessary. In his mind, rules simply do not apply to him, and his staying on the job as FBI Director could only have led to greater disasters.

    Meanwhile, I don’t believe anyone that supported and/or voted for Trump expected him to know much about the law, and speaking for myself, I’m neither surprised nor worried about things Trump proposes to people in private, because I think it’s just Trump’s style to throw ideas at people to get their response. And aside from that, my expectation is that there must be at least a dozen lawyers loitering around the White House, any one of which could explain to him in simple English when one of his ideas is legally out of bounds.

    1. You voted for someone to become President of the U.S. who you didn’t expect to know much about the law? Wow. Just wow.

      1. After 44 Presidents, $20 trillion in debt and a political class operating above the law; at this point, what difference does it make?

        1. If President Trump met with Russians brought to him by Don Jr., a point that the President’s chief strategist states is obvious, the possible charges related to what may have happened at that meeting, would be similar to allegations about which of the preceding Presidents?

              1. According to Hillary Clinton they were “dead broke”. Not sure how one gets a mortgage for mansions in suburban New York when one is “dead broke” but that’s what she said. The Chinese donor issue happened in 1996 though so not sure what that has to do with him being out of office. Dying for you to explain.

                  1. The omnipotent oligarchy. I stubbed my toe the other day. I’m sure it’s because the oligarchy made me. Funny how Linda’s worried about an oligarchy when her ochlocratic mindset is equally dangerous.

                    1. That you’d hope for the dangers associated with ochlocracy illustrates a) your lunacy and b) you ought to stop receiving state benefits and get a real job in the real world Linda.

                    2. “Allan, possessor of the plethora of John Birch ideas.”

                      Linda, Can you tell us any of those ideas you believe I possess?

                      I doubt it. Should we call you Dora? (Finding Nemo). LinDora perhaps?

                    3. Linda, You are going to have to reveal which lessons those are because there are so many that one will agree with some and disagree with others.

                      Example from Americans for Prosperity: “Nobody should be bullied over their political views. They especially shouldn’t be bullied by a government entity.” Maybe a Stalinist thinks differently

                    4. Stop avoiding me Linda. I asked you at least two days what an ochlocracy was and why it was more dangerous than oligarchy. You going to answer me or what?

      2. You believe that a person must be an attorney to be president? Wow. Just wow — and LOL LOL LOL.

        What law school did George Washington graduate from?

        Imagine this: The president that brought WWII to a close didn’t even have a college degree, much less a law degree.

        1. You are lacking. Why not just vote for a TV gameshow host for president if you want the bar set so low for the bona fides of the leader of the free world?

          Oh you did? No wonder.

      3. The last president that was a lawyer (a “constitutional scholar” no less — LOL) constantly misrepresented the law. For instance, as quoted in a November 20, 2016, article in Ars Technica titled “Obama says he can’t pardon Snowden,” when asked about pardoning Snowden Obama said, “I can’t pardon somebody who hasn’t gone before a court and presented themselves, so that’s not something that I would comment on at this point.”

        https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/11/obama-says-he-cant-pardon-snowden/

        It was a question Obama had been asked numerous times, along with being asked about whether he might pardon Hillary, and along with Obama actually pardoning a bunch of people — all of which confirm (along with his law degree) that Obama SHOULD have known that he was talking out of the wrong orifice, compared with actual constitutional law:

        “*** 9. The power of pardon conferred by the Constitution upon the President is unlimited except in cases of impeachment. It extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency, or after conviction and judgment. ***” Ex parte Garland, 71 U.S. 4 Wall. 333 333 (1866).

        What’s the point of knowing about the law if you’re going to LIE ABOUT THE LAW?

        1. I don’t think Obama was lying. I truly believe that he simply did not know that he had the power. I also truly believe that Obama’s intelligence was tremendously over-rated. I think he puts up a good front, like he is smart, but in truth, he has always been pretty much of a stoned slacker and very shallow. He has the “cool” personae down pat, but is an empty shell.

          I mean sheeesh, the guy couldn’t even manage to do a law school article for himself.

          Squeeky Fromm
          Girl Reporter

          1. I agree that Obama is shallow and that his intelligence is overrated (by democrats, not others) — however, as I said, he’d been asked about potentially pardoning Snowden AND Hillary numerous times — enough that he should have looked up the correct answer if he didn’t know it. And aside from that, Ford pardoned Nixon before Nixon had been charged with any crimes or, to use Obama’s language, “gone before a court and presented [himself] — so it’s fairly common knowledge that a president can pardon someone even before they’ve been charged with a crime. And Obama TAUGHT Constitutional Law — which includes the power to pardon. Given his background, his education, and the fact that he actually exercised the power to pardon, for Obama to not know that particular law would be like the president of General Motors not knowing that cars need engines.

            Obama’s intelligence is vastly overrated, but he’s not THAT stupid. I believe he concocted his LIE because he just didn’t want to tell the truth — didn’t want to pardon Snowden (the guy who blew the lid off of Obama’s most-massive violation of the Constitution in US History — and he knew that his followers are too blind and WAY too ignorant to catch him in his LIE about the law.

            I disagree about him having the cool personae down pat. That’s just how the media treats him. Under different circumstances the media could just as easily make him look like the malignant dorkwad that he is.

          2. Academics are inarguably intelligent.

            Businessmen accomplish.

            Thinkers vs. Doers.

            Obama was presented by democrats.

            Obama is a model; a star; a celebrity.

            Obama is Kim Kardashian.

            No more. No less.

            Obama is intelligent and bereft of the drive to accomplish and succeed at anything other than partying – communist partying as a redistributionist, pan-handling parasite…

            an organ grinder’s monkey.

            1. Kim Kardashian is a businesswoman who makes money (accomplishes?). Wall Street shifts money around while dragging down GDP by an estimated 2%, are they celebrities like Mnuchin’s wife, or are they_____? Tom Nash values your rational thinking.

                1. Focusing on the points you don’t want the dupes who vote Republican, to know.

                  The Koch’s ALEC and Trump’s Wall Street cabinet are intent on destroying Main Street.

                    1. The Koch’s, Adelson and the Mercers use their big bucks to induce politicians to focus on serving the interests of the top 0.1%, at the expense of the nation.
                      They aren’t throwing money my way, so I can draw attention to the plight of the people. One in 5 American children are living in property while wealth is concentrating at unprecedented rates.

        2. You don’t know what you are talking about. The president cannot pardon anyone in the furtherance of a crime like obstructing justice for his own purpose. That is a de facto crime. The president has a constitutional obligation to enforce the laws. This would be a constitutional crisis. Your caselaw does not address such a warped, demented fact pattern bc no one in their right mind would believe a president capable of selling out to the Russians to win an election and then cover it up like a ham-handed mafioso.

          Trump is an inveterate con-man, liar, fraud, thief, money launderer, wife beater, rapist, and president.

          I can tell much about you from your support of a man like this.

    2. You are so wrong on so many levels about facts, law, and general human nature. Pro tip: if your source of information uses the phrase “Deep State” in its television news broadcast in any other way than ridicule, it’s doing nothing more than playing to the gullible rubes. Change the channel. Facts are not fungible.

      this is to “hannity is my truth whisperer” willie

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