Two weeks after Attorney General Jeff Sessions sat for an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, ABC News reported that Sessions’ office turned over a cache of internal correspondence, including documents related to Sessions’ proposed resignation and emails about the firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
The report is the latest sign that Mueller’s investigation has pivoted away from financial improprieties and actual links between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government and is now focusing on whether Trump is guilty of obstruction of justice for the firing of former FBI Director James Comey. Before the firing, Trump reportedly asked Sessions and Steve Bannon to leave the room before reportedly asking Comey to go easy on Flynn.
According to ABC, details of what the Justice Department provided to Mueller reflect how widely investigators are casting their net.
Citing sources familiar with the matter, ABC News reported in November that Mueller’s office was interested in obtaining internal emails related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and the earlier decision of Sessions to recuse himself from the entire matter, but at the time it was unclear what other type of information Mueller’s office might have been seeking.
In an Oval Office meeting following Mueller’s appointment, Trump reportedly told Sessions that he should resign, prompting the attorney general to submit a letter of resignation that was ultimately rejected when advisers warned Trump against it. One month later, Trump demanded that White House aides fire Mueller, but he backed off after White House counsel Don McGahn and others made clear that they were opposed to such a move, according to a source familiar with the deliberations told ABC.
Emails and other documents produced during that time have been turned over to Mueller.
As ABC reminds us, Sessions and Rosenstein both played key roles in Comey’s high-profile removal. To publicly bolster the controversial move at the time, the White House released two memos written separately by Sessions and Rosenstein, with both faulting Comey for his handling of the FBI’s probe into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server when she was secretary of state. During a House hearing last year, Rosenstein refused to say whether he consulted with the White House before Comey’s firing or whether anyone asked him to write his memo, insisting such questions “may well be within the scope of the special counsel’s investigation.”
Mueller has already secured charges – and two guilty pleas – against four Trump associates, including Flynn. Flynn was fired only weeks into the Trump administration after then–Acting Attorney General Sally Yates informed White House officials that Flynn had lied to them about his contacts with Russian officials. Yates famously told Congress last year that the DOJ believed Flynn was “compromised” – meaning that he was vulnerable to blackmail from Russia. The DOJ has provided Mueller with documents related to this issue as well. Mueller has also asked former senior staff for information from their time at the department.
Sessions has taken the brunt of Trump’s wrath for recusing himself and allowing Rod Rosenstein to appoint Mueller after Comey was unceremoniously fired.
In announcing his recusal, Sessions said he and “senior career department officials” spent “several weeks” discussing whether his role as top foreign policy adviser to Trump’s presidential campaign last year meant his “impartiality might reasonably be questioned.”
In addition to Flynn, former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos has also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating in the investigation.
While the Mueller probe drags on, we pointed out yesterday the existence of a second “Trump dossier” that was turned over to the FBI in October 2016 by Christopher Steele, the former UK spy who assembled the original “Trump dossier” at the behest of Fusion GPS and their Democratic Party backers.
The “second dossier” was authored by Cody Shearer, a former journalist who is considered a Clinton “hatchet-man.”