Hot on the heels of Thursday’s story in the New York Times that President Donald Trump ordered Robert Mueller fired in June and was talked off the ledge by White House Counsel Don McGahn comes a new bombshell report Friday in Foreign Policy. The report claims that, following James Comey’s testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8, Trump ordered aides to launch a campaign of intimidation against three potential FBI witnesses who could corroborate Comey’s version of events, particularly that the president had tried to persuade Comey to end the investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in attempting to influence the results of the 2016 presidential election.
According to the report in Foreign Policy, Former FBI Director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on June 8 that he had shared his thoughts about what he thought were Trump’s improper attempts to influence or put an end to the investigation into the president’s ties to Russia with some of his colleagues in the FBI. The three members of the FBI that Comey named, and Trump is said to have targeted, are former acting and current deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Comey’s chief of staff Jim Rybicki, and Former FBI General Counsel James Baker.
Shortly after Comey’s testimony before the Senate, Trump hired attorney John Dowd to oversee the White House’s response to the Mueller investigation, which had begun when James Comey had been fired. Dowd informed the president that these corroborating witnesses were likely to be important in any case of obstruction of justice that Mueller might attempt to bring against Trump.
According to an article in Uproxx, this advice led Trump to devise a plan to try to discredit the FBI witnesses before they could testify to Mueller. The article quotes two unnamed White House officials as saying that Trump then told them that they needed to “fight back harder” against these potential witnesses.
In the months since, McCabe, Rybicki, and Baker have all been on the receiving end of attacks not only from the president, but also his spokespeople and Republican supporters in the House and Senate. The president himself has tweeted about Baker and McCabe, who has been a particular focus of intimidation.
Wow, “FBI lawyer James Baker reassigned,” according to @FoxNews.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2017
Why didn't A.G. Sessions replace Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe, a Comey friend who was in charge of Clinton investigation but got….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 26, 2017
Baker, who did resign in February, was joined this week by Rybicki, who has announced his resignation and is going to be replaced as current FBI Director Christopher Wray’s chief of staff. The Hill reported recently that Attorney General Jeff Sessions pressured Wray to fire McCabe, but that Wray threatened to resign instead. The Washington Post also reported this week that during a “get-to-know-you” meeting at the White House after Comey’s firing, Trump had asked McCabe about who he voted for in the presidential election.
According to the article in Foreign Policy, it is unprecedented for an American president to attack the FBI and his intelligence services in the manner that Trump has.