New revelations in Michael Wolff’s new book on the Trump White House put Attorney General Jeff Sessions squarely in the crosshairs of an obstruction of justice case.
A pair of former Obama administration officials appeared Friday on MSNBC’s “Andrea Mitchell Reports,” where they broke down new details from the book Fire and Fury that may interest special counsel Robert Mueller.
“We learned two important new things about where this obstruction of justice probe may go based on this story,” said Matthew Miller, former spokesman for the Justice Department.
He said Wolff’s reporting on President Donald Trump instructing the White House counsel to talk Sessions out of recusing himself in the Justice Department’s Russia probe — where the attorney general would be a witness or potentially even a target — would be important to investigators.
“Proving intent of obstruction of justice is always a hard thing, because acts that would otherwise be legal — like firing the FBI director, for example — are illegal if you’re doing them for the purpose to thwart the investigation,” Miller said. “It now seems clear the president was trying to thwart this investigation. He wanted his attorney general to block it.
Miller said the book also demonstrated the potential scope of the White House conspiracy to impede the Russia probe, which he said appears to include the attorney general himself.
“We learned that — the Justice Department denies this, but (New York Times reporter) Michael Schmidt reports that an aide to the attorney general was up on Capitol Hill before the director’s firing asking congressional staffers to dig up dirt and get it to press about the FBI director (James Comey),” Miller said. “If that was something the attorney general was doing as part of the conspiracy to obstruct justice, if that was an overt act he took to further that conspiracy, the attorney general himself could now be a subject of that investigation.”
“That is a very difficult place for the chief law enforcement officer of the United States to be,” Miller added.
Wolff’s book also reveals that former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus kept handwritten notes that back Comey’s testimony about his interactions with the president before his firing.
“There are three reasons why those notes will be given weight by the special counsel,” said Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff to both the Department of Defense and CIA. “One is they’re handwritten, second, they’re contemporaneous, and third, they’re kind of a statement against interest. In other words, a statement against Reince Priebus’ boss, the president, basically corroborating James Comey’s testimony.”
Those notes, if Wolff accurately reported them, could also help Mueller prove an obstruction case against the president.
“The president reached out to him and said, ‘I want you to spread misinformation about the status of your investigation,’ which of course Comey said he wouldn’t do,” Bash said.
Bash said the president fired Comey only after his first attempt to obstruct justice failed.
“I think what we learned from this new reporting is that firing Jim Comey was Plan B,” Bash said. “Plan A was to keep Sessions in place and have him obstruct the investigation. Sessions had no choice, he had to recuse himself, and I think at some point we have to ask this larger question of, what does a cabinet official do when the president of the United States repeatedly asks you to do the unethical?”
‘The monarch has taken a body blow’: Ex-prosecutor explains why Court ruling is devastating for Trump
On MSNBC Thursday, former federal prosecutor John Flannery broke down the implications of the Supreme Court's ruling against President Donald Trump on immunity from subpoenas.
"I think what it says is that the monarch has taken a body blow as a result of what will be an historic decision, as we've indicated," said Flannery. "I think that the position of the DA in New York is very special, because he can speed this up in a way that the House can',t and has a specific strength, I think, in this case, that it is criminal."
"The most significant thing about it is this is the first Supreme Court case in which there's ever been agreed that a prosecutor could subpoena a president," added Flannery. "Prior prosecutions have been federal, that have been treated by the Supreme Court. So this is a big difference. The majority of the court, 7-2, basically said, from 1740 on, the public is entitled to the testimony, to the evidence of any person. They said that the documents — the question is the character documents, not the character of the person. In this case, what we have is a situation which I bet that the DA is going to go to the court as soon as possible, move to compel an appearance to their subpoena, and going to have the discussion as to what if anything may be limited or excluded and get production as quickly as possible."
Trump officials demanded the Army ‘dig for misconduct’ to justify firing Lt. Col. Vindman
This week, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman willingly left the Army after decades of honorable service. He cited a concerted campaign of "bullying" from the highest branches of power in the United States, and now more details are becoming known.
A New Yorker report revealed that top aides to President Donald Trump were told that they needed to find dirt on Vindman that could justify the firing of the decorated war hero.
"Vindman expected to go to the National War College this fall—a low-profile assignment—then take another foreign posting," the New Yorker reported. "But, in a final act of revenge, the White House recently made clear that Trump opposed Vindman’s promotion. Senior Administration officials told [Defense Secretary Mark] Esper and Ryan McCarthy, the Secretary of the Army, to dig for misconduct that would justify blocking Vindman’s promotion. They couldn’t find anything, multiple sources told me. Others in the military chain of command began to warn Vindman that he would never be deployable overseas again—despite his language skills and regional expertise."
Russian bounties: Pentagon vows ‘action’ if intel confirmed
Top Pentagon officials pledged Thursday to "take action" if the US military could corroborate intelligence suggesting Moscow paid militants linked to the Taliban to kill US soldiers in Afghanistan.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Defense Secretary Mark Esper spoke before a congressional committee as the Trump administration comes under pressure to explain media reports claiming the president was briefed on the intelligence -- but did nothing in response.
Milley said the information was "not corroborated."
"We'll get to the bottom of it. We are going to find out if, in fact, it's true. And if it is true, we will take action," he continued, without specifying what kind of action might be taken.