President Trump wanted to order the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute his 2016 presidential opponent Hillary Clinton and fired FBI director James Comey in April, according to The New York Times.
Trump reportedly told White House counsel Don McGahn of his intention to prosecute his two political adversaries, prompting McGahn to push back on the president’s desire, saying he did not have the authority to do so.
McGahn, who left his role as White House counsel in October, informed the president that although he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power, reports the Times.
The counsel reportedly had White House lawyers write up a memo warning Trump that asking for the investigation could lead to possible impeachment.
The Times reports:
The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. It took on additional significance in recent weeks when Mr. McGahn left the White House and Mr. Trump appointed a relatively inexperienced political loyalist, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting attorney general.
As the Times notes, Trump has previously accused Comey, without evidence, of “illegally having classified information shared with The New York Times in a memo that Mr. Comey wrote about his interactions with the president. The document contained no classified information.”
Trump’s lawyers also privately asked the DOJ in 2017 to investigate Comey for mishandling sensitive government information and for his role in the Clinton email investigation. They declined the requests.
During the 2016 campaign, Trump suggested at a presidential debate that he would prosecute Clinton if he was elected president.
“If I win, I am going to instruct my attorney general to get a special prosecutor to look into your situation,” Trump said.