In 2017, Attorney General Jeff Sessions was hanging onto his position in the Trump administration by a thread. So when President Donald Trump called his home asking Sessions to retract his recusal and to prosecute Hillary Clinton, the former attorney general was in a difficult situation, The New York Times reports.
“The ‘gist’ of the conversation,” the recently released report from special counsel Robert Mueller stated, quoting sessions, “was that the president wanted Sessions to unrecuse from ‘all of it.’”
The 448-page document with redactions released last Thursday was full of examples of Trump attempting to interfere with the investigation. But his demands of Sessions, in addition to two other incidents, show that Trump also tried to use law enforcement entities to threaten a political rival—a measure that no one sitting in the Oval Office since Richard Nixon is known to have attempted.
At the time of the conversation between the president and Sessions, Trump was already being probed for obstruction of justice allegations and was aware that top members of his staff were being questioned as part of the probe.
Trump demanded that Clinton be investigated for her private email server used for government purposes during her time as secretary of state, even though a 2016 investigation into the issue did not bring charges against Clinton.
Experts in all facets of the legal system widely agree that it is worse for an innocent person to be punished than for a guilty person to remain free.
“The loss of a case that should have been brought is never as bad as the harm of a case that shouldn’t have been brought,” said Duke University law professor Samuel W. Buell.
According to the report, in October 2017, Trump repeatedly expressed his desire for the Justice Department to reopen investigations into Clinton’s emails, both publicly and privately. A month later, Sessions tried to satisfy Trump without conducting another probe by asking a Utah federal attorney John Huber to inspect Trump’s allegations against Clinton and the F.B.I. No charges have yet arisen from the ongoing examination.
But Trump was reportedly unsatisfied. In 2017, he again suggested that Sessions could ‘unrecuse.’”
A White House aide saw the encounter and took notes of the conversation. “I don’t know if you could unrecuse yourself,” Trump said, according to aide Rob Porter’s notes. “You’d be a hero. Not telling you to do anything.”