President Trump not only sought to have special counsel Robert Mueller fired, he also sought to discredit top FBI officials out of fear that they could be witnesses against him.
Following former FBI Director James Comey’s testimony before the Senate intelligence committee last June, Trump ordered aides to smear three potential FBI witnesses who could confirm that the President tried to end or influence Mueller’s investigation, Foreign Policy reported on Friday.
Trump, who was reportedly talked down from ordering Mueller’s dismissal last June after White House lawyer Don McGahn threatened to quit, fired Comey a month earlier.
He admitted terminating Comey was related to the Russia investigation.
Trump targeted former acting and current deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe, Comey’s chief of staff Jim Rybicki and former FBI general counsel James Baker, after Comey mentioned them in his testimony, according to Foreign Policy.
Trump’s lawyer, John Dowd, reportedly told him that the trio could be corroborating witnesses in a case of obstruction of justice, should Mueller pursue such a course.
Trump and his allies on Capitol Hill have spent months attacking the three and tweeting that the FBI’s reputation is in “tatters.”
Trump also allegedly floated the idea of dismissing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has overseen the probe since Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
The President has denied he had any intention of getting rid of Mueller, who is probing possible connections between Trump’s campaign and Russian election meddling.
He is also considering whether Trump has obstructed justice by trying to stifle the investigation.
“Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories,” he said when questioned about The Times report.
Trump reportedly told aides that Mueller had conflicts that prevented him from being impartial, including a decade-old dispute over fees at a Trump golf course.