The New York Times reports that after at least two members of Donald Trump’s team were called in to testify to investigators probing Russian influence in the 2016 elections and subsequent events, Trump followed up by asking them how those interviews have gone.
In one episode, the president told an aide that the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, should issue a statement denying a New York Times article in January. The article said Mr. McGahn told investigators that the president once asked him to fire the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Mr. McGahn never released a statement and later had to remind the president that he had indeed asked Mr. McGahn to see that Mr. Mueller was dismissed, the people said.
This is not illegal, but it does tend to look bad. And this particular incident is noteworthy because it strongly hints that Trump, after seeing an article reporting on what McGahn told prosecutors, seems to have pressed McGahn to remember it differently.
The president said he had never ordered Mr. McGahn to fire the special counsel. Mr. McGahn replied that the president was wrong and that he had in fact asked Mr. McGahn in June to call the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, to tell him that the special counsel had a series of conflicts that disqualified him for overseeing the investigation and that he had to be dismissed. The president told Mr. McGahn that he did not remember the discussion that way.
On the one hand, Donald Trump misremembering conversations he himself played a key role in appears to be a commonplace occurrence. On the other hand, if the conversation took place because Trump was trying to influence McGahn’s own memory of events, the special counsel’s office might consider that … problematic.