It has long seemed clear that Donald Trump came up with a justification for firing then-FBI Director James Comey after he made up his mind to do so.
Which makes this new bit of reporting from Te New York Times very interesting:
The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has obtained a letter that President Trump and a top political aide drafted in the days before Mr. Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, which explains the president’s rationale for why he planned to dismiss the director.
The May letter had been met with opposition from Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, who believed that some of its contents were problematic, according to interviews with a dozen administration officials and others briefed on the matter.
The White House has never exactly had a straight story on this, but at the time of the firing Trump said it was a recommendation from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Comey that pushed him to act. However, the Times story makes clear that Rosenstein's effort was written on a parallel track with this first memo, which was drafted by Trump aide Stephen Miller.
Mueller has reportedly been probing whether Trump could be charged with obstruction of justice if it can be proved that he fired Comey in order to derail the Russia investigation before it could turn up anything that might have been harmful to the president or any of his associates.
AndTrump did seem to admit was the case in a televised interview a few days afterward, but his legal team and his aides have since tried to walk that back.
All of which raises the question: What was in the Miller memo that was so “problematic” that McGahn's reaction was, more or less, “NOOOOOOOPE!” Did Miller use the Russia investigation as justification for firing Comey? If so, that would seem to indicate possible obstruction of justice and undercut the case Trump's lawyers have been trying to make to Mueller, that the president was well within his constitutional authority to fire the FBI director for any reason.
Whatever is in that memo, if it made the White House counsel nervous, one has to assume it is not exculpatory for the president.
Please note: This is a commentary piece. The views and opinions expressed within it are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the editorial opinion of IJR.