Trump allegedly moved to fire Mueller, a move that would worry Utah’s Stewart

Washington • President Donald Trump sought the firing of Robert Mueller III last June, shortly after the special counsel took over the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, and he backed off only after White House Counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign over the move — a situation Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, said put him in an “uncomfortable position.”

The extraordinary showdown was confirmed by two people familiar with the episode, which was first reported by The New York Times.

McGahn did not deliver his resignation threat directly to Trump, but he was serious about his threat to leave, according to a person familiar with the episode.

The incident could now become part of Mueller’s examination of whether Trump has taken steps to try to stymie the investigation.

Peter Carr, a spokesman for the special counsel’s office, declined to comment. McGahn did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

A White House spokesman referred questions to Ty Cobb, the attorney coordinating the administration’s response to the Russia investigations, who did not immediately respond to requests for comment. John Dowd, an attorney for the president, declined to comment.

Stewart told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Thursday night that the report needs to be substantiated, but if it were true, it would be concerning.

“If he did, his instincts were wrong, but the people around him protected from those instincts,” Stewart said.

Sen. Mark Warner, Va., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is conducting its own investigation of Russian interference, said in a statement that “firing the Special Counsel is a red line that the President cannot cross. Any attempt to remove the Special Counsel, pardon key witnesses, or otherwise interfere in the investigation, would be a gross abuse of power, and all members of Congress, from both parties, have a responsibility to our Constitution and to our country to make that clear immediately.”

Trump was initially calm when Mueller was appointed, surprising White House aides, according to a senior administration official.

But in the weeks that followed, the president spoke with a number of friends and advisers who convinced him that Mueller would dig through his private finances and look beyond questions of collusion with Russians. They warned that the probe could last years and would ruin his first term in office.

At the time, his legal team was urging him to aggressive action against the special counsel and compiling arguments about why he could not be impartial, raising questions about whether Mueller had gotten into a dispute over membership fees at a Trump-owned golf course in northern Virginia.

In response, McGahn said he would not be at the White House if Trump went through with the move, according to a senior administration official.

The president, in turn, backed off.

Since then, Trump brought in a new legal team that has counseled cooperation with Mueller. He has continued to fume about the investigation, even as his lawyers have publicly pledged to work with the special counsel. On Thursday, one of the president’s attorneys distributed a memo outlining the number of voluntary staff interviews and documents they have produced.

— Tribune reporter Aubrey Wieber contributed to this story from Salt Lake City.

Utah Rep. Chris Stewart: The real scandal isn’t possible Russian meddling in election, it’s taint of politics in CIA and FBI

Utah Rep. Chris Stewart: The real scandal isn’t possible Russian meddling in election, it’s taint of politics in CIA and FBI

No one is talking about Russian collusion with the Donald Trump campaign anymore, says Utah’s only member of the House Intelligence Committee.

“We are unraveling or peeling back an onion there that is extraordinarily concerning to me,” Stewart, Utah’s only member of the House Intelligence Committee, said Tuesday on the Utah Senate floor. “When it comes to the politicalization of agencies like the FBI, the Department of Justice and frankly, in my opinion, worst of all, the CIA, where they’ve been turned into political operatives.

“Obviously, there are dedicated public servants that work there,” he added. “But a few individuals in very senior positions. We cannot allow that to go unanswered if that is true.”

“You don’t hear [collusion] anymore from either side of the aisle because the reality is there just simply isn’t evidence on it,” he said.

There is, however, an ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling led by special counsel Robert Mueller III, whose team interviewed Attorney General Jeff Sessions last week, according to press reports that were confirmed by the Department of Justice. Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, also was subpoenaed, The New York Times reported last week.

Praising President Trump’s achievements in his first year in office, Stewart began his speech by comparing the president to Rodney Dangerfield, the comedian who starred as the golfer with an unorthodox swing and loud behavior in the movie “Caddyshack.”

“Halfway up the swing he stops and he tweets something out,” Stewart said of Trump, who is an avid golfer. “Halfway down the swing he throws a toy out and the press goes running over there to look at the toy and then he swings, and it’s just as ugly as anything you’ve seen, but the ball goes down the middle of the fairway.

Stewart — who during the 2016 campaign called Trump “our Mussolini” — told the House Republican Caucus he now has become a “huge convert” to the president.

“He has really won my respect,” he added. “He has had an incredibly effective first year” despite “all the distractions, and all the diversions and all the media polls.”

He added, “It’s surprising to me that he has a 44 or 46 percent approval rating” while in the news media, “90 percent of the coverage is negative” that offers a “continuous beat-down.”

Stewart added that he keeps a list of where the news media “doesn’t just get it wrong, they actually deceive, actively lie.”

Reporter Lee Davidson contributed to this report.

Rep. Chris Stewart launches ‘Valentines for Veterans’ card drive

Rep. Chris Stewart launches ‘Valentines for Veterans’ card drive

Composite stock image, St. George News

Utahns are invited to mail or drop off Valentine’s Day cards for veterans to Stewart’s Salt Lake City or St. George offices through Feb. 9. Stewart and his staff will deliver the cards in person to the Southern Utah Veteran’s Home in Ivin and the William J. Christofferson Veteran Home in Salt Lake City.

Sending a Valentine’s Day card is one small way for us to thank our nation’s heroes

“As a former Air Force pilot, I know firsthand about the sacrifices made by veterans and their families,” Stewart said. “Sending a Valentine’s Day card is one small way for us to thank our nation’s heroes and let them know we care about them on the day we celebrate those we love.”

Valentine’s Day cards can be mailed or dropped off cards to either of the following of Stewart’s offices:

St. George office:

253 W. St. George Blvd., #100

St. George, UT 84770

Salt Lake City office:

420 E. South Temple #390

Salt Lake City, UT 84111

Rep. Chris Stewart joins other Republicans in calling for Sessions to step down

Rep. Chris Stewart joins other Republicans in calling for Sessions to step down

Updated 5:18 AM ET, Sat January 6, 2018

Washington (CNN) GOP Rep. Chris Stewart, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, joined the growing list of Republicans calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign.

“This is hard for me, it really is, because I think Jeff Sessions is one of the most honorable men in Washington, D.C.,” Stewart told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Friday afternoon. “But we have been weakened in our investigation into very important concerns at the Department of Justice and the FBI. Jeff Sessions is not able to take the reins and direct that investigation.”
He continued: “We need the director there who can take the reins and be assertive in that. He can’t do that when he is recused. I believe it may be time for him to step aside.”
Because of his recusal, Sessions is unable to act on the department’s current Russia probe — spearheaded by special counsel Robert Mueller’s team, appointed in May, and overseen by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. But a new attorney general, appointed by Trump, would not be bound by those restrictions, and could potentially fire Rosenstein and Mueller and reassert control over the investigation.
In the call, Stewart joined Mark Meadows, Freedom Caucus chair, and Jim Jordan, a member who sits on the oversight and judiciary committees in the US House of Representatives, who wrote an op-ed for the Washington Examiner and criticized Sessions’ handling of the department’s investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
“Attorney General Jeff Sessions has recused himself from the Russia investigation, but it would appear he has no control at all of the premier law enforcement agency in the world,” they wrote. “It is time for Sessions to start managing in a spirit of transparency to bring all of this improper behavior to light and stop further violations.”
The Republican congressmen wrote that “if Sessions can’t address this issue immediately, then we have one final question needing an answer: When is it time for a new attorney general? Sadly, it seems the answer is now.”