White House lawyer Uttam Dhillon intentionally misled President Donald Trump regarding his power to fire the FBI director in order to keep him from making a decision that could be detrimental to the administration.
Longstanding analysis of presidential power says that the president, as the head of the executive branch, does not need grounds to fire the F.B.I. director. Mr. Dhillon, a veteran Justice Department lawyer before joining the Trump White House, assigned a junior lawyer to examine this issue. That lawyer determined that the F.B.I. director was no different than any other employee in the executive branch, and that there was nothing prohibiting the president from firing him.
But Mr. Dhillon, who had earlier told Mr. Trump that he needed cause to fire Mr. Comey, never corrected the record, withholding the conclusions of his research.
The decision to withhold such information from Trump came after the president openly asserted his desire to fire then-FBI director James Comey. Comey had refused to state publicly that Trump was not under investigation in the Russia probe.
Stephen I. Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas School of Law, called the episode “extraordinary,” adding that he could not think of a similar one that occurred in past administrations.
“This shows that the president’s lawyers don’t trust giving him all the facts because they fear he will make a decision that is not best suited for him,” Mr. Vladeck said.