Two attorneys working for President Trump observed things they so feared might constitute obstruction of justice that they made contemporary notes about it. One (James Comey) was fired, the other (White House Counsel Mark Corallo) resigned on his own accord.
Comey’s story is pretty well known. As detailed in my Russia Gate Timeline, on January 27, 2017 (the day Sally Yates first warned White House Counsel about Mike Flynn) Trump summoned Comey to his office and demanded a loyalty pledge. On February 14th, the day after firing Flynn, Trump again calls Comey to his office and urges him to drop the investigation of Flynn. Comey finds these interactions so disturbing that he begins keeping contemporaneous accounts of his interactions with the President. Comey said he started making these contemporaneous records because he did not trust the President to be truthful.
In March and May testimony to Congress Comey states that the FBI is investigating possible collusion by the Trump Campaign with Russians, and has been since July 2016 (over three months before the election). On May 9, 2017 Trump fires Comey. The official White House explanation that the firing was due to Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation is quickly contradicted by President Trump who at least twice declares it was because of the Russia investigation.
On May 12th the President made the notorious and his most improvident ever tweet “James Comey better hope that there are no “tapes” of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!” The tweet sets off a firestorm of questions over whether such tapes exist, which Trump refuses to answer for six weeks. The tweet prompts Comey to leak contents of his meetings with Trump where Trump sought a loyalty oath and urged Comey to drop the Flynn investigation. All of this eventually leads Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein to appoint Robert Mueller as Special Prosecutor on May 17th to lead the investigation of possible Russian collusion.
Mueller’s investigation has dogged Trump since then and led to the indictment of two associates (Paul Manafort and Rick Gates) and the convictions of two more (Mike Flynn and George Papadoupolos). As discussed below, more may be coming.
Now emerging is the story of of Mark Corallo, a former member of the White House Counsel staff. This story focuses on conversations related to the Trump Team’s initial response to news leaking of the Kushner/Trump Jr, June 9, 2016 meeting with Russians offering to share dirt from Hillary Clinton’s emails. The initial response, around July 8, 2017, was a dishonest claim that the meeting was just to discuss the Russian adoption issue.
Corallo urged a more forthcoming response, arguing the more indicting emails would come out. Trump advisor and spokesperson Hope Hicks allegedly responded that the emails “will never get out.”
Corallo immediately feared Hicks’ statement indicated a cover up and suggested obstruction of justice. He made contemporaneous notes about the conversations and resigned less than two weeks later, on July 20th, citing concerns that he wasn’t being told the truth by people within the administration.
Corallo would be proven right. Unknown to Team Trump, the NY Times already had the emails. When they told Jared Kushner they did and asked him to comment on it, Kushner was compelled on July 11, 2017 to release the emails himself. The original dishonest story was a major embarrassment and suggested a cover up. Further news leaked that President Trump was advised by counsel to do a more forthcoming disclosure, rejected that advice, and dictated the dishonest press release personally.
More Coming? McCabe, Rosenstein and Wray?
There are other investigators and attorneys who may also have felt compelled to document their interactions with the President.
Shortly after designating him Acting Director of the FBI, Trump asked Andrew McCabe who he voted for. McCabe answered that he didn’t vote but later describes the conversation as “disturbing.” Trump would later heavily criticize McCabe because his Democrat wife in 2015 accepted money for her Virginia state office legislature campaign from a PAC run by a close friend of Hillary Clinton. In late January 2018 Trump fired McCabe.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has long been on Trump’s hit list for appointing Mueller. In December Rosenstein also took a strong stand against Trump releasing the “Nunes Memo.” This reportedly prompted an angry Trump to demand from Rosenstein an update on where the Mueller investigation was going, with Trump asking, are you “on my team.” All the same, the Justice Department went on to describe any release of the Nunes Memo as “extraordinarily reckless.”
Christopher Wray was handpicked by Trump to replace Comey as FBI Director. However, Wray also recently argued against releasing the Nunes Memo and had the FBI release its own strong statement condemning the Nunes Memo declaring, “we have grave concerns about material omissions of fact that fundamentally impact the memo’s accuracy.” After making such a strong statement can Wray not resign if Trump decides to release the memo anyway? He would be the second Director of the FBI pushed out of office by Trump in less than a year.
According to The Washington Post Trump has directly stated he wants the Nunes Memo released so he can fire people investigating him with the DOJ:
“Trump has told advisers that the memo could benefit him by undercutting the special counsel’s investigation and allow him to oust senior Justice Department officials — and that he wants it released soon”
If that sounds to you like using the Nunes Memo as a means to further obstruct justice, it sounds that way to me too.
For more on the Russian investigation consider reviewing my Russia Gate Timeline.