If you reveled in Thursday’s New York Times account of Donald Trump losing it on Jeff Sessions over the appointment of a special counsel in the Russia probe, here’s the icing on the cake: It could pose yet more evidence of Trump trying to obstruct the investigation.
MSNBC’s Ari Melber pointed out Thursday the legal importance of the scene from the Oval Office. “Donald Trump began taking action to fire the attorney general over the Russia investigation,” Melber said. “He did it with witnesses in the room and he did it after admitting, of course, that he fired FBI director over the Russia investigation.”
Not only did the article relay that Trump began leaning on Sessions for his resignation during the meeting, it noted that Trump regarded Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe as “the moment his administration effectively lost control over the inquiry.” Presumably, Trump figured if he got rid of Sessions, he could replace him with a loyalist who had no Russian conflicts and could therefore reclaim oversight of the inquiry from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The only reason Sessions was spared from being canned was that senior White House officials reportedly stepped in to save his job.
Mr. Pence; Stephen K. Bannon, the president’s chief strategist at the time; and Reince Priebus, his chief of staff, all advised that accepting Mr. Sessions’s resignation would only sow more chaos inside the administration and rally Republicans in Congress against the president. Mr. Sessions, a former Alabama senator, served in the Senate for two decades.
The president relented, and eventually returned the resignation letter to Mr. Sessions — with a handwritten response on it.
Anybody else wonder what was in that note Trump penned? Just guessing Robert Mueller might be interested.
Let’s remember that by this point, Trump had already axed at least two people as a result of the Russia investigation: former national security adviser Mike Flynn and former FBI director James Comey. But it’s by no means a stretch to imagine that Sally Yates’ removal as acting attorney general may have had a whiff of Russia too (of course, the stated reason was her refusal to defend Trump’s Muslim ban).
Anyway, both Bannon and Priebus took part in the White House drama concerning the fate of Jeff Sessions and now, neither of them work in the West Wing any longer. The whole episode provides yet another point of inquiry as to why Trump was so unhinged by the Russia probe and also so intent on finding a way to regain control of it.