Mueller reviewing draft of letter Trump wrote explaining Comey firing
(CNN) — The special counsel investigating potential ties between Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and Russia is reviewing a letter drafted by the President and a top aide in the days before the firing of FBI Director James Comey that lays out in detail why he wanted to get rid of him, according to people familiar with the Mueller probe.
The Justice Department turned over a copy of the letter, which was drafted by Trump and top aide Stephen Miller, to special counsel Robert Mueller in recent weeks, the New York Times first reported Friday, citing interviews with a dozen administration officials and others briefed on the matter. The letter was intended for Comey but was never sent.
The multi-page letter enumerated Trump’s long-simmering complaints with Comey, people familiar with it told CNN. The letter included Trump’s frustration that Comey was unwilling to say publicly that Trump was not personally under investigation in the FBI’s inquiry into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The letter was drafted during an early May weekend visit to his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, and then was shared with senior aides during an Oval Office meeting the day before the firing, according to people familiar with the discussions.
It remains unclear what was written exactly in the letter. The Times report doesn’t discuss the letter’s contents. Ty Cobb, a White House lawyers, declined to discuss the letter or its contents to the Times.
But the letter was met with opposition from White House counsel Don McGahn, who saw its contents as “problematic,” the Times reported.
Instead, a letter written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that was focused on criticizing Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server was cited behind Trump’s decision to fire the FBI chief.
After Comey was fired in May, Trump has said he was thinking of “this Russia thing” when he decided to fire Comey, who had been leading the bureau’s investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Trump told NBC News in May that he was frustrated by the ongoing investigation and believes it was motivated by Democrats’ fury at losing the election.
With those comments, Trump explicitly tied the Russia probe to his rationale for firing Comey. It was one of a series of explanations for dismissing the FBI director, some of which directly contradict those offered earlier by top White House officials.