The New York Times is reporting that Donald Trump absolutely tried to wield the power of the Department of Justice to do his bidding and punish his political rivals:
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.
The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.
Just think about that for a second. Assuming the reporting is accurate, Trump tried to abuse his authority as commander in chief, the guy who has now departed the White House told him he could not do that and that doing so could put him in jeopardy, perhaps both legally and politically. And then McGahn covered his own butt by memorializing his response in a written memo for everyone to eventually see. That’s how you behave if you’re pretty certain your boss is putting you in jeopardy and you don’t want to go down with him.
The Times is unclear about whether Trump pressed the issue further with McGahn but reports that Trump has continued privately weighing the prospect in discussions. Separately, he has advocated for investigations into both Comey and Clinton.