Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating whether President Donald Trump tried to obstruct justice last summer when he appeared to be set on spurring the ouster of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Investigators have been asking witnesses about Trump’s private discussions at the time he was tweeting criticism of Sessions in July and early August, anonymous sources tell the Washington Post.
Investigators apparently want to know whether Trump hoped to oust Sessions so he could choose a new attorney general to oversee the investigation of possible Russian influence over Trump associates during the election, the article reports.
According to previous reports, Trump reportedly ordered the firing of Mueller last June but backed down after pushback by White House counsel Don McGahn. The new Washington Post article says Trump had also ordered Reince Priebus to get a resignation letter from Sessions last summer, but the former chief of staff hesitated.
In private, Trump reportedly has been referring to Sessions as “Mr. Magoo,” the cartoon character with bad eyesight and mistaken impressions of his environment.
On Wednesday, Sessions took a new tack and responded to Trump’s criticism with a statement.
Trump had tweeted that Sessions should have asked Justice Department lawyers to investigate a GOP claim that a surveillance application left out important information that an information source—a Russia dossier—was funded by Democrats. The warrant application had sought surveillance of former Trump campaign aide Carter Page.
Trump said Sessions had instead asked the inspector general to investigate. “Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!” Trump tweeted.
Sessions’ statement, in part, said: “As long as I am the attorney general, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution.”
Sessions has told associates he doesn’t plan to resign.