Per the New York Times, special counsel Robert Mueller has obtained an early draft of former F.B.I. director James Comey’s termination letter, composed by President Trump and one of his aides — Stephen Miller. The letter is said to offer “an unvarnished view” of Trump’s thinking in the days prior to Trump’s firing Comey.
Reported to have been drafted in May, the letter raised concerns with Donald F. McGahn II the White House counsel who believed that its “angry, meandering tone” was problematic and he took issue with Trump’s (via Miller) multiple mentions of Comey’s having assured him on multiple occasions that he was not under investigation, according to interviews with a dozen administration officials by the New York Times.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence greets Director of the FBI James Comey as Director of the Secret Service Joseph Clancy (2nd L) and U.S. President Donald Trump watch during the Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Reception in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., January 22, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts[/caption]
This problematic first draft was composed over a long weekend in early may during which the president was joined by (daughter) Ivanka, (son-in-law) Jared Kushner, and Stephen Miller. Kushner and Miller are said to have agreed with Trump’s reasoning and ultimately it was Mr. Miller who was charged with composition.
“Mr. Trump ordered Mr. Miller to draft a letter, and dictated his unfettered thoughts. Several people who saw Mr. Miller’s multi-page draft described it as a screed.”
When the president returned to D.C. on Monday, May 8th, copies of the “screed” were handed out in the Oval Office to senior officials. Those included Mr. McGahn and Vice President Mike Pence. President Trump said that he had decided to fire Mr. Comey, and read aloud from Mr. Miller’s transcribed memo.
McGahn arranged for President Trump to meet in the Oval Office later that day with Attorney General Jeff Sessions and deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who he knew had been pursuing separate efforts to fire Mr. Comey. Sessions and Rosenstein were particularly angry over Comey’s testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee the previous week, during which he said it made him “mildly nauseous” to think his handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation might have had an impact on the outcome of the 2016 election.
Mr. Rosenstein is reportedly responsible for the draft that would later be released as official reason for Comey’s termination, with the exception of the petty passage, “While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to effectively lead the Bureau,” which was very important to President Trump.
As Robert Mueller concentrates on Trump’s finances and various ways he and his business are tied to Russian interests, the termination of James Comey also remains a focus point for his investigation. What was the responsibility of, say, Mike Pence with respect to Trump’s firing Comey because he refused to clear his name during a still active investigation? Will the Vice President be requested to testify?