On Thursday evening, while the White House was scrambling to respond to Michael Wolff’s explosive Fire and Fury, The New York Times reported that Trump in March of last year ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to prevent Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the FBI’s Russia probe. According to the Times’s Michael Schmidt, Trump was enraged because he believed that it was the attorney general’s duty to protect the president:
Mr. McGahn was unsuccessful, and the president erupted in anger in front of numerous White House officials, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him. Mr. Trump said he had expected his top law enforcement official to safeguard him the way he believed Robert F. Kennedy, as attorney general, had done for his brother John F. Kennedy and Eric H. Holder Jr. had for Barack Obama.
The report also details how one White House lawyer withheld from Trump the conclusions of a report that said the president could fire the FBI director, fearing that such an act would imperil the administration. Contemporaneous notes taken by former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus also reportedly back up the account that former FBI Director James Comey gave to Congress, in which Comey claimed that Trump had called on him to publicly declare that the president was not personally under investigation. Trump has repeatedly implied that Comey was lying. Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly been examining these actions.
These revelations are important additions to the growing pile of evidence that Trump fired the FBI director with the intent of obstructing justice. They also suggest that the Mueller investigation is coalescing around an obstruction of justice charge, rather than the charge that Trump colluded with the Russians during the 2016 campaign, though as the Times notes, legal experts disagree on whether Mueller has enough to make the obstruction charge stick.