WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump believed the appointment of a special counsel to take over the federal probe of Russian interference into the 2016 election would spell the end of his presidency, according to the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
U.S. President Donald Trump hosts participants of the Wounded Warrior Project Soldier Ride, after the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report, in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
When then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions informed Trump of Mueller’s appointment in May 2017, the report said, Trump slumped back in his chair and said: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked.”
Trump then asked Sessions, whom he had berated for months for recusing himself from the Russia probe: “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” and told Sessions he had let him down.
Details of Mueller’s investigation were released on Thursday, showing Trump tried to impede the probe, raising questions of whether he committed the crime of obstruction of justice.
Sessions, who resigned in November, recalled that Trump said to him, “you were supposed to protect me,” or words to that effect, the report said.
The Republican president had bristled at the investigation since taking office in January 2017, belittling Sessions and calling the probe a witch hunt and a hoax.
“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,” Trump said, according to the report. “It takes years and years and I won’ t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
A month after the appointment, in June 2017, Trump tried to get rid of Mueller, according to the report. He called White House counsel Don McGahn at home and told him to call Sessions and say Mueller “had conflicts of interest and must be removed,” the report said.
“McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre,” Mueller’s report said, referring to the Watergate-era firing of key law enforcement officials by President Richard Nixon.
Two days later, the report said, “the President made another attempt to affect the course of the Russia investigation.” He asked his former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, to deliver Sessions a message that he should announce publicly that the investigation was “very unfair” to Trump, that the president had done nothing wrong and that he would allow Mueller to “move forward with investigating election meddling for future elections.”
Reporting by Ginger Gibson, Doina Chiacu; Editing by Bill Rigby