In the latest ‘expose’ on the internal troubles roiling the White House, The New York Times reported that a top Indian-American legal advisor deliberately misled President Donald Trump on whether he could fire former FBI Director James Comey.
In a Jan. 4 article, “Obstruction Inquiry Shows Trump’s Struggle to Keep Grip on Russia Investigation” the Times said Uttam Dhillon, one of the President’s advisors kept under wraps an earlier finding that legally allowed the Commander-in-Chief to fire the FBI director even without cause.
After a Congressional hearing at which then FBI Director Comey refused to answer a question on whether President Trump was under investigation on the Russia collusion issue, an “infuriated” Mr. Trump “began to discuss openly with White House officials his desire to fire Mr. Comey.”
“This unnerved some inside the White House counsel’s office, and even led one of (White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn) Mr. McGahn’s deputies to mislead the president about his authority to fire the F.B.I. director,” the Times report says. That deputy was Dhillon, a former Justice Department lawyer.
Dhillon, according to the Times, “was convinced that if Mr. Comey was fired, the Trump presidency could be imperiled, because it would force the Justice Department to open an investigation into whether Mr. Trump was trying to derail the Russia investigation.”
But according to existing law, a President has the right to fire the FBI director without any grounds, something Dhillon knew as a veteran Justice Department lawyer who had worked with McGahn.
“Mr. Dhillon, a veteran Justice Department lawyer before joining the Trump White House, assigned a junior lawyer to examine this issue. That lawyer determined that the F.B.I. director was no different than any other employee in the executive branch, and that there was nothing prohibiting the president from firing him,” the Times says, basing its report on numerous interviews with unnamed sources.
“But Mr. Dhillon, who had earlier told Mr. Trump that he needed cause to fire Mr. Comey, never corrected the record, withholding the conclusions of his research,” the Times said.
President Trump fired Comey May 9.