When president Donald Trump learned that Robert Mueller had been appointed to probe his campaign’s ties to Russia’s attack on the 2016 election, he responded with anger and graphic language, according to special counsel Mueller’s report released today.
Then-attorney general Jeff Sessions told the president about his decision to appoint Mueller in May 2017. Trump responded: “Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m fucked,” Mueller reports, citing notes from Sessions’ chief of staff.
A redacted version of the report was published today by Sessions’ successor, William Barr. During a press conference, the new attorney general said that Mueller did not find any evidence that Trump or his staff acted illegally to conspire with the Russians. He acknowledged Trump’s discontent with the Russia probe. “The president was frustrated and angered by a sincere belief that the investigation was undermining his presidency, propelled by his political opponents, and fueled by illegal leaks,” he said.
When he learned of Mueller’s appointment, Trump “lambasted” Sessions, saying, “How could you let this happen, Jeff?” according to the report. He told Sessions, “you were supposed to protect me,” or words to that effect, Sessions told the special counsel.
“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Trump then said.
He asked Sessions to resign, and Sessions agreed. He came back with a resignation letter the next day. The two men ultimately agreed Sessions would stay on—though Trump kept the letter for nearly two weeks, despite concern from top staffers that it could be used “to influence the Department of Justice” as a “shock collar,” the report says.
After a year of publicly criticizing him, Trump eventually fired Sessions in Nov. 2018, the day after the Democrats won back the House in the midterm elections. His acting replacement, Matthew Whitaker, had a history of remarks disparaging Mueller’s investigation, prompting fears that he could interfere with the probe. Barr, previously attorney general under George H.W. Bush, was confirmed to his post in February.