Trump worried Mueller probe was end of his presidency

WASHINGTON • US President Donald Trump believed the appointment of a special counsel to take over the federal probe of Russian interference in the 2016 election would spell the end of his presidency, according to the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

When then Attorney-General Jeff Sessions informed Mr Trump of Mr Mueller's appointment in May 2017, the report said, Mr Trump slumped back in his chair and said: "Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f****d."

Mr Trump then asked Mr Sessions, whom he had berated for months for recusing himself from the Russia probe: "How could you let this happen, Jeff?" and told Mr Sessions he had let him down.

Details of Mr Mueller's investigation were released on Thursday, showing Mr Trump tried to impede the probe, raising questions of whether he committed the crime of obstruction of justice.

Mr Sessions, who resigned in November, recalled that Mr Trump said to him, "You were supposed to protect me", the report said.

The Republican President had bristled at the investigation since taking office in January 2017, belittling Mr Sessions and calling the probe a witch-hunt and a hoax.

"Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsel, it ruins your presidency," Mr Trump said, according to the report.

PRESIDENT'S REACTION IN 2017

Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f****d.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, when he was informed of Mr Robert Mueller's appointment in May 2017.

 
 

"It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me."

A month after the appointment, in June 2017, Mr Trump tried to get rid of Mr Mueller, according to the report.

He called White House counsel Donald McGahn at home twice and told him to call Acting Attorney-General Rod Rosenstein and say Mr Mueller should be removed because of conflicts of interest, the report said. "You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod," Mr McGahn recalled Mr Trump as saying.

"McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre," Mr Mueller's report said, referring to the Watergate-era firing of key law enforcement officials by then President Richard Nixon.

Two days later, the report said, "the President made another attempt to affect the course of the Russia investigation".

He asked former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to tell Mr Sessions he should announce publicly that the investigation was "very unfair" to Mr Trump, that Mr Trump had done nothing wrong and that Mr Mueller may "move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections".

In a separate incident, Mr Trump screamed at Mr McGahn about how weak Mr Sessions was, and Mr Stephen Bannon, then the President's chief strategist, thought he was as mad as he had ever seen him, the report said.

REUTERS, NYTIMES

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 20, 2019, with the headline 'Trump worried Mueller probe was end of his presidency'. Print Edition | Subscribe