There is breaking news from the New York Times tonight. According to two sources, Donald Trump attempted to push the DOJ to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey.
President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.
Ari Melber led with this story on The Beat tonight. Here is his opening monologue before the guest panel joined:
"Breaking news on the most significant legal scandal to hit this White House since the report that Donald Trump tried to fire Bob Mueller. This is truly a bombshell. President Donald trump tried to order the Justice Department to prosecute not one but two of his biggest adversaries, Hillary Clinton and James Comey. The story is that in the spring, Donald Trump told his White House counsel, Don McGahn, that he wanted the DOJ officials to explicitly prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey. So that right there is a potentially illegal act. And that is quite important, given that obstruction is still under investigation in this White House.
What happened next is also important. Don McGahn, according to this New York Times report, refused and then went on to try to show Donald Trump in detail why this was, potentially an impeachable bad idea. White House lawyers wrote this memo described in the Times saying if they went forward, the consequences would be damaging and, yes, would include, quote, possible impeachment. Now that right there is a big deal.
It is usually Donald Trump's critics and adversaries who are talking about his potential impeachment. We don't use the "I" word because it is an extreme constitutional remedy. According to the New York Times it was his own lawyers, his chief counsel, Don McGahn, saying, "Mr. President, if you do this, you could be impeached." That's not all. The Times reporting that Donald Trump would go on to continue to privately agitate for these investigations of Hillary Clinton, obviously his chief rival in politics, and James Comey, his former FBI director.↓ Story continues below ↓
This news I want to be clear is a scale way beyond anything else we have seen in legal controversies with Donald Trump. And that's saying something. ...This is a report tonight for the first time that the President of the United States actively and explicitly tried to prosecute Hillary Clinton, a political opponent, and James Comey, the key witness in the obstruction probe. That request, if it happened, that order, if it was given, is blatantly unconstitutional."
If true, this is an abuse of power and obstruction of justice that could open the doors to impeachment. Donald Trump told Don McGahn that he wanted to do this and McGahn "rebuffed" him, saying he could not order that prosecution. McGahn further said that "while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power" and warned that "if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment."
McGahn has since left the White House. It is not clear if Trump tried to get Clinton or Comey charged through other means and he has been vocal about his desire to appoint a second special counsel to investigate both Clinton and Comey (for what crimes, no one knows).
Has Trump discussed this with his new lackey, Matt Whitaker? Did he push Jeff Sessions to pursue charges before Sessions was fired? And how much does Mueller know?