The New York Times is reporting that Robert Mueller, special counsel leading the investigation into Russian meddling in our nation’s elections last fall, received a first draft letter commissioned by President Donald Trump that laid out the administration’s original rationale for firing former FBI Director James Comey.
It’s unclear as yet whether the memo, which was originally written by White House adviser Stephen Miller, included the direction Comey was taking the Russia investigation to rationalize his firing. Yet the fact that Mueller pursued and received the letter provides the clearest evidence yet that he’s looking into possible obstruction of justice charges against the president for terminating Comey.
Although Comey himself did not express an opinion one way or another that his firing amounted to obstruction, many experts suggest that, given the right conditions and rationale for the termination, it could result as such. Trump firing Comey for getting too close to family members or White House aides (or even himself) would be such a condition, for example.
The finalized version that explained why Comey was fired was delivered in a letter written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein explained that Trump removed Comey due to his negligent handling of an investigation involving Hillary Clinton, Trump’s one-time political adversary.
But that rationale wasn’t the first draft letter — and if that first draft includes the Russia investigation as a reason why Comey was canned, it could point Mueller toward pursuing obstruction of justice charges against President Trump.
Mueller now has that first draft letter, which White House counsel Donald McGahn originally had advised against using days before Comey was terminated.
Watch this video explaining who Robert Mueller is and why he was picked to lead the Russia investigation:
Earlier in the week, lawyers for Donald Trump released memos directly to Special Counsel Mueller, providing details on why the president has the inarguable right to fire whomever he pleases. The memos also suggested that the president didn’t obstruct justice.
It was unclear at that time why those memos were drafted and sent to Mueller earlier this week, but it seems clear now that they were in response to him receiving this first draft letter regarding Comey’s termination by the president. Trump may be in hotter water than we originally anticipated.