President Donald Trump reportedly wanted to use the Justice Department to prosecute and silence his political adversaries, namely Hillary Clinton and former FBI director James Comey, but was dissuaded from doing so by a White House lawyer, according to two people familiar with the matter.

One of the president’s lawyers, Donald McGahn, took the lead in convincing Trump not to make good on his intentions, telling him that the president has no authority to order a prosecution.

According to the people familiar with the interaction, McGahn told Trump that there would be severe repercussions, including accusations of abuse of power and impeachment, if he ordered law enforcement officials at the Justice Department to launch investigations of his political rivals.

McGahn drafted a memo explaining the relationship between the president and the DOJ, and listing the possible negative outcomes of Trump overstepping his presidential authority.


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“Mr. McGahn will not comment on his legal advice to the president,” said McGahn’s lawyer, William Burck, said in a statement to the New York Times. “Like any client, the president is entitled to confidentiality. Mr. McGahn would point out, though, that the president never, to his knowledge, ordered that anyone prosecute Hillary Clinton or James Comey.”

It is unknown on what grounds President Trump hoped to prosecute Clinton and Comey, although he previously accused the latter of revealing classified information to the media by revealing a memo he had written about his interactions with the president.

That memo, which was given to the New York Times, did not contain classified information, though it has been cited as evidence for an obstruction of justice case against Trump.


Trump has also accused Clinton of corruption and having ties to the Russian government for her role in allowing a Russian nuclear agency to purchase a uranium mining company, Uranium One.

Trump and other conservatives point to the donations the company gave to the Clinton Foundation as proof of their claims, though the link is tenuous as no evidence has emerged that the donations influenced the government’s approval of the deal.

President Trump has had to face numerous accusations of attempting to abuse his authority over the DOJ in relation to his attempts to end the investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and for installing loyalists to positions of power to help curb special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Moreover, Trump has repeatedly railed against the DOJ, calling the body’s efforts to investigate his 2016 presidential campaign a “witch hunt.”

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