President Donald Trump wanted to order the Department of Justice to prosecute both his 2016 campaign rival Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director James Comey, discussing the possibility with White House counsel in the spring.
According to The New York Times, White House lawyer Donald McGahn dismissed the notion, telling Trump he had no authority to order prosecutions.
> 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.
> The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. It took on additional significance in recent weeks when Mr. McGahn left the White House and Mr. Trump appointed a relatively inexperienced political loyalist, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting attorney general.
Trump has continued discussing the matter privately, according to two people who have spoken with the president regarding the issue, the Times said, including the possibility of appointing a second special counsel to investigate both Clinton and Comey.
> He has also repeatedly expressed disappointment in the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, for failing to more aggressively investigate Mrs. Clinton, calling him weak, one of the people said.
Trump has previously lamented that he does not have greater control over the Justice Department, calling it one of the “saddest” parts about being president.
> “I look at what’s happening with the Justice Department,” he said in a radio interview a year ago. “Well, why aren’t they going after Hillary Clinton and her emails and with her, the dossier?” He added: “I am not supposed to be doing the kind of things that I would love to be doing. And I am very frustrated.”