Former US President Donald Trump had threatened to use his “presidential powers” to prosecute his political foes such as former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and FBI Director James Comey, who cleared her of any mishandling of government documents in the private emails case, according to a new book.
“At one point in the spring of 2018, Trump instructed (then White House Counsel) Don McGahn to direct (then Attorney General Jeff) Sessions to prosecute Clinton and Comey and, if the Attorney General refused, said he would do it himself as President. McGahn had to explain that the President had no such power.
“You can’t prosecute anybody,” McGahn told Trump, according to book “The Divider” written by Peter Baker of The New York Times and Susan Glasser of The New Yorker that went up for sale on Tuesday.
Trump once required a civics lesson from White House counsel on the limits of his power after he suggested that as President, he could – and would – prosecute his political enemies, according to the new book.
Throughout his tenure, Trump had a penchant for skewering his foes via Twitter takedowns and public lashings. But some of his adversaries irked the then President so much so that he sought a more permanent form of revenge against them, the book claimed.
According to “The Divider,” from which the Business Insider has quoted excerpts, Trump frequently pressured then US Attorneys General Sessions and Bill Barr to bring criminal charges against his opponents, including Hillary Clinton and former FBI Director Comey.
Trump eventually fired both Comey and his deputy for not acceding to his request for stopping the FBI’s investigations into a 3rd party intelligence report (British MI6 agent) that the Russians were involved in hacking systems and influencing the electoral process in the 2016 elections in which Democrat Hilary Clinton lost. The British spy had alleged that the Russians were influencing Trump with favours against his request for a Trump tower in Moscow.
The FBI was in the process of corroborating and dismissing the MI6 intelligence report as it would be embarrassing for an incumbent President if it were to come out in the public domain.
“‘Congress could seek to ‘impeach and remove’ the President if it concluded that he abused the power of intervening in a criminal matter,’ McGahn wrote, using boldface and italics to emphasize his point,” Glasser and Baker wrote.
A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Several former Trump White House and government officials have since recounted similar stories that suggest the former President was unfamiliar with the logistics of his newfound position. Earlier this year, Barr said Trump didn’t have a “good idea” of what the roles of the President or Justice Department were entitled throughout his time in office.
In the 2021 CIA publication, “Getting to Know the President,” author John L. Helgerson, a former intelligence officer, said Trump was the most difficult incoming President to brief, and an August New York Times report cited intelligence officials who said they often withheld information from Trump for fear of the “damage” he might do if he knew.