President Donald Trump tried to order the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey, two of his political foes, per a new report.
According to the New York Times, Trump told White House counsel Don McGahn this spring that he wanted to order the DOJ to go after Clinton, his 2016 presidential rival, and Comey, the man he fired as FBI director who has since emerged as a pervasive critic.
McGahn, per the Times, “rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution.”
The former White House counsel went so far as to have lawyers draw up a memo explaining why it was a terrible idea:
Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.
As Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt wrote, the move “was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies.”
Trump even reportedly floated a special counsel to investigate his enemies:
It is unclear whether Mr. Trump read Mr. McGahn’s memo or whether he pursued the prosecutions further. But the president has continued to privately discuss the matter, including the possible appointment of a second special counsel to investigate both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Comey, according to two people who have spoken to Mr. Trump about the issue. He has also repeatedly expressed disappointment in the F.B.I. director, Christopher A. Wray, for failing to more aggressively investigate Mrs. Clinton, calling him weak, one of the people said.
Trump’s long desire to “lock em up” is sure to raise alarm bells amongst those fearful of his autocratic tendencies, and the enablers that surround him. McGahn is now out at the White House, and Matt Whitaker, a loyalist, is now the acting attorney general.
Read the Times report here.