The top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee believes a new report from the New York Times backs up claims that the White House tried to obstruct justice in the Russia probe.
“The allegations in the Times piece, if accurate, provide further potential evidence that the White House was engaged in an effort to obstruct justice,” Rep. Adam Schiff of California told the Washington Post on Friday.
The New York Times report from late Thursday details how President Trump and his administration have attempted to thwart the FBI’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion with his campaign.
Schiff said the story contains three big revelations that special counsel Robert Mueller should focus on as part his Russia probe.
One is Trump’s alleged ordering of White House counsel Donald McGahn to try to stop Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Department of Justice’s investigation into collusion.
Schiff also said he was concerned about Sessions’ attempt to find dirt on then-FBI Director James Comey so negative articles could be published about him, as well as details about the original letter drafted by Trump about firing Comey.
The allegation that Sessions wanted to plant negative stories on Comey, a charge that the Justice Department denies, suggests that he might have been “trying to set up some predicate for firing him without disclosing what the true reason was,” Schiff said. “That suggests they wanted to build a case publicly to fire Comey. If this was part of an effort to conceal the real motive for firing Comey, that’s very pertinent to obstruction of justice.”
The letter Trump drafted originally to fire Comey mentioned the Russia probe, the Times reported. The letter’s release was blocked by the president’s advisers, but the White House said previously it had never mentioned the investigation.
“If it’s accurate that the White House said this document said nothing about the Russia investigation, and that turned out to be another false statement, that may be further evidence of corrupt intent in concealing, again, the true motivation behind the Comey firing,” Schiff said.
Schiff added that the report “heightens the importance” of bringing in Donald Trump Jr., as well as Sessions, before the House Intelligence Committee.
His panel has already asked Republicans to bring in Mark Corallo, the former spokesman for Trump’s legal team, though the requests to Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., have “gone nowhere.”