U.S. President Donald Trump believed the appointment of a special counsel to take over the federal probe of Russian interference into the 2016 election would spell the “end of presidency,” according to the report by Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
When former attorney general Jeff Sessions informed Trump of Mueller‘s appointment in May 2017, the report said, Trump slumped back in his chair and said: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m f–ked.”
Trump then asked Sessions, whom he had berated for months for recusing himself from the Russia probe: “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” and told Sessions he had let him down.
Details of Mueller‘s investigation were released on Thursday, showing Trump tried to impede the probe, raising questions of whether he committed the crime of obstruction of justice.
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Sessions, who resigned in November, recalled that Trump said to him, “you were supposed to protect me,” or words to that effect, the report said.
The Republican president had bristled at the investigation since taking office in January 2017, belittling Sessions and calling the probe a witch hunt and a hoax.
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“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency,” Trump said, according to the report. “It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me.”
Longtime Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway denied Thursday that Trump has ever referenced his presidency being over.
“I’ve been by his side for three straight years now, on the campaign and here. He has never expressed that,” she told reporters.
WATCH: Conway denies Trump said Mueller appointment was ‘end of my presidency’
Mueller was appointed as Special Counsel more than two years ago. His 400-page report says Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign did not conspire with Russian agents, but it fell short of exonerating Trump for a possible charge of obstruction of justice.
“If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state,” the report reads.
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The report detailed 11 episodes of possible instances of obstruction of justice, including an instance in June 2017, when Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to tell the then-acting attorney general that Mueller had conflicts of interest and must be removed, the report said.
It also said there was “substantial evidence” that Trump fired James Comey as FBI director in 2017 due to his “unwillingness to publicly state that the president was not personally under investigation.”
Mueller cited “some evidence” suggesting Trump knew about former national security adviser Michael Flynn’s controversial calls with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office, but evidence was “inconclusive” and could not be used to establish intent to obstruct.
*with files from Global News and Kerri Breen
© 2019 Reuters