President Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to bar Attorney General Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Justice Department’s investigation to determine whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 campaign.
Per Trump’s instructions, McGahn urged Sessions to not remove himself from the investigation, the New York Times reported on Thursday.
Trump was said to be outraged at Sessions’ decision and told White House staff that Sessions needed to protect him.
The report said Trump initially planned to submit a letter to then-FBI Director James Comey, calling the Russia probe “fabricated and politically motivated.” Aides prevented him from sending it.
After Sessions’ recusal and Comey's ouster from the FBI in May, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed special counsel Robert Mueller to spearhead the probe.
Mueller has been able to validate some of the claims Comey made in memos detailing his conversations with Trump before he was fired. In one of these conversations, Trump urged Comey to stop the FBI investigation into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
Flynn pleaded guilty in federal court in December for lying to the FBI last year about his contacts with then-Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Flynn was charged on one count of “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious and fraudulent statements” to the FBI about communications exchanged with Kislyak shortly after Trump took office.
Mueller has also indicted other Trump aides and officials, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.