Donald Trump appears to fear an obstruction of justice investigation reportedly being conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, even more than he fears Mueller’s Russia collusion investigation, with Trump’s public mouthpiece and defense lawyer Rudy Giuliani saying that Trump will refuse to answer any questions about obstruction of justice from Mueller, as Bloomberg News reported.
But according to a new report by investigative journalist Murray Waas, the obstruction case against Trump appears more clear-cut than had generally been believed, because an internal White House memo reveals that Trump knew a lot more than he has claimed to know about an investigation into his then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn when he pressured FBI Director James Comey to back off of Flynn. Waas published his findings on Tuesday in The New York Review of Books.
Trump held a private meeting with Comey on February 14, 2017, in the Oval Office. According to memos written by Comey immediately following the meeting, as Vox reported, Trump told Comey during the meeting, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go.”
The memo reported by Waas “explicitly states that when Trump pressured Comey he had just been told by two of his top aides — his then chief of staff Reince Priebus and his White House counsel Don McGahn — that Flynn was under criminal investigation,” the reporter wrote in his NYRB article.
Not only did Trump know that Flynn was under criminal investigation by the FBI, but he also knew the specific nature of Flynn’s crime, according to Waas.
“McGahn also relayed to (Trump) that Flynn had told the FBI the same false story he’d earlier told (Vice President Mike) Pence (that Flynn had never spoken to Kislyak about sanctions),” Waas wrote. “Because Trump and McGahn knew of Flynn’s misstatements to the FBI, they would have understood the legal jeopardy Flynn was in: it is a felony to lie to the FBI—precisely the federal criminal charge Flynn would later plead guilty to.”
But Trump’s lawyers, in a January 29 letter to Mueller, claimed that Trump was not aware of the criminal investigation into Flynn, according to a report by Talking Points Memo.
That letter, obtained and published in June by the New York Times, said that “White House Counsel and Chief of Staff, as well as others surrounding the President, had every reason to believe at that time that the FBI was not investigating Lt. Gen. Flynn, especially in light of the fact that Lt. Gen. Flynn was allowed to keep his active security clearance.”
But the new memo reported by Waas appears to directly contradict the assertions by Trump’s lawyers in the letter to Mueller.