No doubt the Trump-loathing New York Times is running this Maggie Haberman story because they think it makes the president look bad. And they point out twice, without evidence, that Trump said something or other "without evidence." All part of the ongoing war between the White House and the press:
President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.
The lawyer, Donald F. McGahn II, rebuffed the president, saying that he had no authority to order a prosecution. Mr. McGahn said that while he could request an investigation, that too could prompt accusations of abuse of power. To underscore his point, Mr. McGahn had White House lawyers write a memo for Mr. Trump warning that if he asked law enforcement to investigate his rivals, he could face a range of consequences, including possible impeachment.
The encounter was one of the most blatant examples yet of how Mr. Trump views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies. It took on additional significance in recent weeks when Mr. McGahn left the White House and Mr. Trump appointed a relatively inexperienced political loyalist, Matthew G. Whitaker, as the acting attorney general.
To any reasonable person following the bouncing ball between Hillary Clinton and James Comey, there appears to be plenty of reason for suspicion, if not an actual investigation from the "typically independent" Justice Department (e.g. Eric Holder); the fact that Comey overstepped his legal authority to give Mrs. Clinton a pass on her illegal email server during the campaign cries out for greater understanding. Meanwhile, the "typically independent" Justice Department is still held in thrall by Rod Rosenstein, whose memo to Trump outlining his legal grounds for firing Comey triggered the entire Mueller fiasco, which we still have not seen the last of yet.
It is not clear which accusations Mr. Trump wanted prosecutors to pursue. He has accused Mr. Comey, without evidence, of illegally having classified information shared with The New York Times in a memo that Mr. Comey wrote about his interactions with the president. The document contained no classified information.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers also privately asked the Justice Department last year to investigate Mr. Comey for mishandling sensitive government information and for his role in the Clinton email investigation. Law enforcement officials declined their requests. Mr. Comey is a witness against the president in the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.
Mr. Trump has grown frustrated with Mr. Wray for what the president sees as his failure to investigate Mrs. Clinton’s role in the Obama administration’s decision to allow the Russian nuclear agency to buy a uranium mining company. Conservatives have long pointed to donations to the Clinton family foundation by people associated with the company, Uranium One, as proof of corruption. But no evidence has emerged that those donations influenced the American approval of the deal.
The fact is, as the Times story notes, the president is perfectly within his authority to order such an investigation. But, of course, that would be unseemly:
The lawyers laid out a series of consequences. For starters, Justice Department lawyers could refuse to follow Mr. Trump’s orders even before an investigation began, setting off another political firestorm. If charges were brought, judges could dismiss them. And Congress, they added, could investigate the president’s role in a prosecution and begin impeachment proceedings. Ultimately, the lawyers warned, Mr. Trump could be voted out of office if voters believed he had abused his power.
The greatest failure of the Trump administration to date has been a failure of nerve to act when the consequences would have been the least; as Shakespeare has Macbeth say: "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly."