Mueller just requested new documents from the DOJ that could spell trouble for Trump and Sessions

  • Special counsel Robert Mueller has requested documents from the DOJ related to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
  • The documents could help Mueller determine whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice when he fired Comey in May.
  • Comey was leading the FBI's investigation into Russia's election interference and whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow during the election.


Special counsel Robert Mueller has asked the Justice Department to hand over thousands of documents related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey, including any communications between the White House and the DOJ around the time that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the probe into Russia's election interference.

ABC News reported late Sunday that the document request came amid Mueller's continuing examination of whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired Comey, who was leading the FBI investigation into potential collusion between Trump's campaign team and Russia.

The request for emails between the White House and the DOJ related to Sessions' recusal could help Mueller determine why Trump has projected anger that Sessions relinquished control over the campaign-related investigations to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein in March. The recusal came after it was revealed that Sessions had at least two meetings with Russia's ambassador to the US during the campaign and failed to disclose them. 

"Earlier reports indicated that Trump exploded when he found out about his recusal," said former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. "That could be evidence of his state of mind because it is a highly unusual reaction to a recusal decision."

23 PHOTOS
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller
See Gallery
Former FBI Director Robert Mueller
WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 28: Former FBI director Robert Mueller attends the ceremonial swearing-in of FBI Director James Comey at the FBI Headquarters October 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. Comey was officially sworn in as director of FBI on September 4 to succeed Mueller who had served as director for 12 years. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama applauds outgoing Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) director Robert Mueller (L) in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on June 21, 2013 as he nominates Jim Comey to be the next FBI director. Comey, a deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, would replace Mueller, who is stepping down from the agency he has led since the week before the September 11, 2001 attacks. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller applauds key staff members during a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW HEADSHOT)
391489 03: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during a conference as he stands with Justice Department veteran Robert Mueller, left, who he has nominated to head the FBI, and Attorney General John Ashcroft July 5, 2001 the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller stands for the national anthem during a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (L) reacts to a standing ovation from the audience, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (C) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) during Mueller's farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller gestures during his remarks at a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
FILE PHOTO -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (R) and FBI Director Robert Mueller speak about possible terrorist threats against the United States, in Washington, May 26, 2004. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller reacts to applause from the audience during his farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., right, and FBI Director Robert Mueller make their way to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (C) delivers remarks at a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Also onstage with Mueller are Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (FROM L), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former CIA Director George Tenet and TSA Administrator John Pistole. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: (L-R) Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton attend the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. Holder and other members of the Obama administration are being criticized over reports of the Internal Revenue Services' scrutiny of conservative organization's tax exemption requests and the subpoena of two months worth of Associated Press journalists' phone records. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Federal Bureau of Investigation oversight on Capitol Hill in Washington June 13, 2013. Mueller said on Thursday that the U.S. government is doing everything it can to hold confessed leaker Edward Snowden accountable for splashing surveillance secrets across the pages of newspapers worldwide. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (L) welcomes FBI Director Robert Mueller during their meeting in Kiev June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Efrem Lukatsky/Pool (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS)
FBI Director Robert Mueller (L) arrives for the Obama presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington. President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term as President of the United States. Woman at right is unidentified. REUTERS/Win McNamee-POOL (UNITED STATES)
WASHINGTON, : FBI Director Robert Mueller answers questions before Congress 17 October 2002 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mueller was testifying before the House and Senate Select Intelligence committees' final open hearing investigating events leading up to the September 11, 2001. AFP Photos/Stephen JAFFE (Photo credit should read STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) CIA Director Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director Robert Mueller testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 16, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
399994 02: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller visits the American military compound at Kandahar Airport January 23, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mueller had lunch with FBI officials and Haji Gulali, commander of the Kandahar region. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller (L) stand during the National Anthem alongside Attorney General Eric Holder (R) and Deputy Attorney General James Cole (C) during a farewell ceremony in Mueller's honor at the Department of Justice on August 1, 2013. Mueller is retiring from the FBI after 12-years as Director. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
399994 01: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller greets American forces on the American military compound at Kandahar Airport January 23, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mueller had lunch with FBI officials and Haji Gulali, commander of the Kandahar region. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: FBI Director Robert Mueller, center, talks with Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., right, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, talk before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 06: OVERSIGHT HEARING ON COUNTERTERRORISM--Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, before the hearing. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

William Yeomans, a former deputy assistant attorney general who spent 26 years at the Justice Department, said in an email that "hanging over" the decision to fire Comey "are questions of the propriety of Sessions’ participation, given his recusal from the Russia investigation and Trump’s later statements that he was thinking of Russia" when he fired the FBI director.

"This episode also highlights Rosenstein's difficult position," Yeomans said. "He continues to supervise an investigation in which he appears to be (though we don’t know for sure) an increasingly significant witness."

Trump told The New York Times in July that "Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should've told me before he took the job so I could choose someone else."

29 PHOTOS
Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
See Gallery
Members past and present of President Trump's inner circle
Michael Flynn: Former National Security Advisor, no longer with the Trump administration
Ivanka Trump: First daughter and presidential adviser
Gen. John Kelly: Former Secretary of Homeland Security, current White House chief of staff
Steve Bannon: Former White House chief strategist, no longer with the Trump administration
Jared Kushner: Son-in-law and senior adviser
Kellyanne Conway: Former Trump campaign manager, current counselor to the president
Reince Priebus: Former White House chief of staff, no longer with the Trump administration
Anthony Scaramucci: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Sarah Huckabee Sanders: White House press secretary
Donald Trump Jr.: First son to President Trump
Sean Spicer: Former White House press secretary, soon to be no longer with the Trump administration
Jeff Sessions: U.S. attorney general
Steve Mnuchin: Secretary of Treasury
Paul Manafort: Former Trump campaign chairman
Carter Page: Former foreign policy adviser to Trump's presidential campaign
Omarosa Manigault: Director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison
Melania Trump: Wife to President Trump and first lady of the United States
Jason Miller: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Hope Hicks: White House Director of Strategic Communications
Mike Dubke: Former White House communications director, no longer with the Trump administration
Stephen Miller: Trump senior policy adviser
Corey Lewandowski: Former Trump campaign manager
Eric Trump: Son to President Trump
Rex Tillerson: Secretary of State
Sebastian Gorka: Former deputy assistant to the president in the Trump administration, no longer in his White House role
Roger Stone: Former Trump campaign adviser, current host of Stone Cold Truth
Betsy DeVos: U.S. Education Secretary
Gary Cohn, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, walks toward Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 5, 2017. President Donald Trump's encounter this week at the Group of 20 summit with Russian leader Vladimir Putin is raising concerns among veteran American diplomats and analysts about a mismatch between a U.S. president new to global affairs and a wily former Soviet spymaster. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

About a week later, he called Sessions "beleaguered" and asked why the Justice Department and Congress weren't investigating "Crooked Hillarys crimes & Russia relations." Trump took aim at Sessions again the next day, tweeting that he had taken "a VERY weak position" on Hillary Clinton's "crimes" and on "leaks" from the intelligence community.

'Sessions and Rosenstein at the core of the obstruction inquiry'

He has interviewed some of Trump's closest aides as part of that inquiry, including communications director Hope Hicks and former press secretary Sean Spicer.  White House counsel Don McGahn is set to be interviewed by Mueller's team in the coming weeks.

According to White House special counsel Ty Cobb, Trump decided he wanted Comey gone shortly after he testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3. Comey reiterated during that public appearance that some of Trump's associates were still under investigation, and he said it made him "mildly nauseous" to think that his handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe "might have had some impact on the election."

Reports have suggested that Trump was annoyed with Comey for implying that the election was somehow swayed by the director's controversial decision to tell Congress that he was reexamining Clinton's emails 11 days before the election. Additionally, Comey had not allowed the White House to review his testimony, which Trump and his aides considered "an act of insubordination," according to Reuters. The Times echoed that report, saying Trump was broadly irked by his inability to gain assurances of loyalty from Comey.

As such, Trump wrote a letter with one of his top policy advisers, Stephen Miller, outlining why he thought Comey was unfit to lead the FBI and expressing frustration with the fact that Comey would not confirm publicly that he was not under investigation.

The letter was sent over to the DOJ after some heavy editing by McGahn, according to the New York Times. Sessions and Rosenstein met with Trump shortly thereafter and wrote memos arguing that Comey should be fired.  

"The sequence of events in which Sessions and Rosenstein met with Trump and the next day transmitted Rosenstein’s memo to the White House shortly before Trump fired Comey, allegedly for the reasons stated in Rosenstein’s memo, places Sessions and Rosenstein at the core of the obstruction inquiry," said Yeomans.

"It will be important to know what communications occurred within DOJ and between DOJ and the WH before the White House meeting, immediately after the WH meeting, after transmission of the memo and before Comey’s firing, and after Comey’s firing."

'Letting Flynn go' 

The day after Comey's dismissal, Trump told two Russian diplomats in an Oval Office meeting that by firing Comey, whom he reportedly called a "nut job," he had taken "great pressure" off himself, according to The New York Times. Days later, he told NBC's Lester Holt that "the Russia thing" had been on his mind when he dismissed the FBI director.

Those comments — combined with a one-on-one meeting in February in which, Comey testified, Trump sought to have the FBI consider dropping its investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn — have led lawmakers, legal experts, and now Mueller to examine whether Trump sought to obstruct justice, a criminal and impeachable offense.

Also of interest to Mueller, according to The Washington Post, are requests Trump made to Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency chief Mike Rogers in late March. Trump reportedly asked Coats on March 22, with CIA Director Mike Pompeo still in the room, whether there was a way to get Comey to back off the FBI's Flynn investigation.

Soon afterward, The Post said, Trump called Rogers and Coats asking whether they could make public statements denying that the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia during the campaign. Mueller interviewed Coats and Rogers about those interactions in mid-June. 

Comey testified in June that back in February, a day after former national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned for misleading Vice President Mike Pence about the nature of his communications with Russia's ambassador to the US, Trump asked everyone to leave the room before he expressed "hope" that the FBI could see a way clear to "letting Flynn go."

Comey said he found Trump's emptying of the room before he made the request "significant" and took the comment itself as a "direction."

Comey also testified that Trump asked him to publicly announce that Trump was not personally under investigation and that Trump asked for loyalty during a dinner in late January. Comey told Congress that Trump seemed to be implying that he would fire him if he did not pledge loyalty but that Comey ultimately promised the president "honesty" instead.

Obstruction of justice is broadly defined: It involves any conduct in which a person willfully interferes with the administration of justice. To charge someone with obstructing justice, however, prosecutors have to prove that "the defendant corruptly endeavored to influence, obstruct, or impede" an investigation, according to legal and national security experts at the website Lawfare. That element, they said, "is the hardest to prove, because it depends on showing an improper motive."

NOW WATCH: Vladimir Putin could secretly be one of the richest men in the world — an investigative reporter who spent 4 years in Russia explains

See Also:

SEE ALSO: Mueller may be entering the final stages of a significant part of the Russia investigation

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.