This week closed with the dramatic revelation that President Donald Trump had attempted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller in June 2017, only to be thwarted by White House lawyer Don McGahn.
But before the story broke, a host of other important developments unfolded related to the Russia investigation, as well as the effort to discredit it. Amid talk of a secret memo authored by House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes and accusations of a secret society at the FBI, senior officials at the FBI came under fire by several powerful actors, including the president himself.
Here’s more on what you may have missed:
- Bombshell report alleges Trump tried to fire Mueller: In June 2017, multiple reports said, Trump ordered Mueller’s firing but backed down after White House counsel Don McGahn refused to comply with the order and threatened to resign. Trump has denied the report. “Fake news, folks, fake news,” he said.
- Mueller closing in on Trump: Mueller’s investigation is reaching a critical point in its case against Trump’s administration, and signs point to him focusing not on collusion but rather on obstruction of justice.
- Trump said he’ll testify under oath: Trump said he would be willing to speak to Mueller sometime in the next several weeks, even adding he would “look forward” to doing so under oath. His lawyers backtracked soon after, although Trump’s team is negotiating conditions for an eventual interview.
- Trump asked McCabe whom he voted for: Trump reportedly asked the FBI’s deputy director whom he voted for, just days after he fired former FBI Director James Comey. McCabe said he did not vote in the 2016 election. Trump has attacked him on Twitter for his family’s financial connections to allies of 2016 Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.
- FBI officials exchanged thousands of texts: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that Peter Strzok, the FBI official ousted from the Russia probe over anti-Trump text messages, and FBI lawyer Lisa Page had exchanged more than 50,000 texts. But thousands of those texts, Sessions said, were lost because of a technical glitch with the Samsung phones on which they were stored.
- Republicans capitalise: The missing texts prompted Trump and his allies to further question the credibility of the FBI and the Department of Justice. Trump fumed on Twitter, calling the story “one of the biggest” in a long time. On Thursday, DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz told Congress that his office had recovered the missing messages.
- US senator alleges there’s a ‘secret society’ within the FBI: Republicans ramped up their attacks against the FBI and the DOJ after Sen. Ron Johnson said an informant told him there was a “secret society” within the FBI. He suggested it could represent “bias, potentially corruption, at the highest levels of the FBI.” Johnson’s claim was based on a text Page, the FBI lawyer, sent referring to a secret society, but it’s unclear whether she was simply joking.
- Congress fights over secret memos: Republicans have been urging intelligence officials to release a memo written by the House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes and his aides. It outlines purported illegal surveillance by the Obama administration during the transition period after Trump’s election. Democrats, in response, have downplayed the document. Democrats on the intelligence committee announced plans to release a memo of their own to counter what they say are the GOP’s attempts to discredit Mueller’s investigation.
- Democrats move to check Trump’s powers: Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal renewed calls for Congress to pass a bill that would make it harder for Trump to unilaterally fire Mueller. Prior proposals called for a federal panel of judges to approve any request to remove Mueller as special counsel.
- Sessions turns his eye to the FBI at Trump’s request: Trump has been pressuring Sessions since December to get FBI director Christopher Wray to oust McCabe, the deputy director, and former general counsel James Banker, who was reassigned to another department. This comes after several revelations about Trump and Sessions looking to get rid of McCabe, whom Trump has long suspected of disloyalty.
Sonam Sheth and Bryan Logan contributed to this report.
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