A new report reveals that special counsel Robert Mueller's team is investigating whether Trump's efforts to pressure Attorney General Jeff Sessions to change his mind after he recused himself from the Russia probe constituted obstruction of justice.
Trump reportedly asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions to reverse his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation last year — an interaction that is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller as potential obstruction of justice.
According to The New York Times, Trump “berated” Sessions shortly after he recused himself from the probe, during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago. Trump had reportedly told his aides that he needed a “loyalist” overseeing the investigation and was furious when Sessions stepped aside.
Despite Trump’s attempts to change his mind, Sessions ultimately refused to walk back his decision.
Mueller’s investigators are reportedly looking into the interaction as part of their inquiry into whether Trump obstructed justice by attempting to influence or stymie the Russia investigation. According to The Times, Sessions is a key witness in the special counsel’s probe.
Trump has openly stated that Sessions should not have recused himself. On at least one occasion, he has said he wouldn’t have appointed Sessions as his attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that Trump had ordered top White House lawyer Don McGahn to stop Sessions from recusing himself. McGahn carried out Trump’s orders and attempted, unsuccessfully, to convince Sessions not to recuse himself from the probe.
When McGahn’s efforts failed, Trump was so furious that he “erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him,” The Times reported in January.
Mueller’s interest in Trump’s attempts to pressure Sessions “suggests that the obstruction investigation is broader than it is widely understood to be — encompassing not only the president’s interactions with and firing of the former F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, but also his relationship with Mr. Sessions,” The Times reports.
According to a list of questions obtained by The Times, Mueller’s investigation into potential obstruction of justice is also focused on Trump’s involvement in crafting a misleading statement about the June 9, 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between campaign associates and Russian officials.
Other areas of focus in the obstruction investigation include Trump’s decision to fire Comey and any potential efforts to pressure him to back off the investigation, as well as Trump’s knowledge of calls that former national security adviser Michael Flynn made with former Russian ambassador Sergei Kislyak in late December 2016.