09 March, 2018
Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been informed of two occasions where US President Donald Trump had asked key witnesses about matters they discussed with investigators probing the 2016 alleged Russian meddling, a New York Times report said.
But that New York Times story, plus a Washington Post scoop about an apparent attempt to build a back channel between the Trump transition team and the Kremlin, provide more evidence that Mueller is conducting a broad, deep and significant investigation.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders fielded questions about Cohen making a $130,000 payment to Daniels in October 2016, and she said Trump didn't know about it - as far as she knew.
In another instance, Trump told one of his aides that White House lawyer Don McGahn should publicly deny a January report alleging that McGahn told investigators that Trump had asked him to fire Mueller, the Times reported.
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Those conversations were revealed to Mueller in interviews with witnesses who considered the interactions as troublesome.
According to the Times, Porter told McGahn that Trump had suggested he might "get rid of" McGahn if he didn't issue the statement. McGahn didn't deny it, and ultimately reminded Trump that he had, in fact, asked McGahn to contact Rod Rosenstein and make sure Mueller was dismissed. McGahn never issued such a denial. The President has not been questioned by Mueller; Trump's lawyers are negotiating terms of a possible interview. "This was an obviously inadvisable move by the president, even if it didn't cross over to obstruction of justice", former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller tells me.
"We don't know exactly what McGahn said, but the mere fact that he put a stop to that letter is another piece of evidence that Mueller could use to say, 'Donald Trump was warned by the White House counsel that this was a problematic step and made a decision to do it anyway, '" Mariotti told Business Insider a year ago. Bernie Nussbaum, who served as Bill Clinton's first general counsel, came under fire for what his critics decried as putting the president's personal legal needs ahead of the office of the presidency as the Clinton White House grappled with the Whitewater scandal.
During their conversation, Trump asked Priebus if the special counsel's team had been "nice" and if he was treated fairly, according to the source.