President Donald Trump was infuriated by his legal team's inability to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the investigation into whether Team Trump colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, the New York Times reported Thursday.
According to the Times, Trump dispatched one of his top attorneys, White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, to convince Sessions not to recuse himself. When McGahn failed, the Times reports, Trump blew up in anger "in front of numerous White House officials," because he felt his attorney general should protect him from investigations.
The Times report also details several other ways Trump tried and failed to control the Russia investigation, including asking a congressional aide for dirt on former FBI director James Comey just days before Trump fired him. Trump’s first draft of a memo outlining why he fired Comey also mentioned his belief that the investigation was “fabricated and politically motivated,” according to two sources who spoke to the Times.
A White House lawyer, in turn, apparently tried unsuccessfully to stop Trump by deliberately failing to disclose to him the fact that he had the authority to fire Comey. The attorney, identified as Uttam Dhillon, reportedly worried Comey's dismissal would trigger a subsequent investigation that could threaten Trump's presidency. Dhillon, the Times reports, told Trump he needed cause to fire Comey, and declined to correct himself after commissioning a report from a junior lawyer that showed he was wrong.
Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer tasked with dealing with the investigation, who was recently overhead by a New York Times reporter loudly discussing the case over lunch at BLT Steak, declined to comment on the Times’ story. White House officials denied that anybody had ever sought to discredit Comey, and said first draft of the letter to fire Comey never mentioned Russia.