Jan 5, 2018

Trump, WH Counsel tried to stop Sessions from recusing himself

Photo: Tasos Katopodis / Getty Images

White House counsel Don McGahn lobbied Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to recuse himself from the Russia probe at the direction of President Trump, the New York Times' Mike Schmidt reports.

  • McGahn backed off when Sessions told him that DOJ officials already advised him to recuse himself, per the Times. That led to Trump "[erupting] in anger," saying "he needed his attorney general to protect him," per the report.
  • Why it matters: This information has already crossed Robert Mueller's desk.

Other details from the report:

  • Mueller has "substantiated claims that Mr. Comey made in a series of memos describing troubling interactions" with Trump. Remember: Comey said Trump asked him for loyalty, and to back off Michael Flynn.
  • Trump reportedly called the investigation "fabricated and politically motivated" in a letter he meant to send to Comey. He was ultimately stopped from sending it by White House aides.
  • Mueller also has noted from former chief of staff Reince Priebus regarding how Trump talked to him about calling Comey "to urge him to say publicly that he was not under investigation."
  • A White House lawyer misled Trump into believing he lacked the power to fire Comey, because he thought the move would be disastrous.

Worth noting: The NYT reports that experts are "divided" on if Mueller could bring about obstruction charges against Trump, though legal experts told the Times that there is "a larger body of public evidence tying the president to a possible crime of obstruction."

Go deeper

Surprise billing may be about to get worse

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The problem of surprise medical billing — which Congress failed to solve last year — is about to get worse, thanks to a feud between an insurance giant and a company that employs thousands of doctors.

The big picture Parents who have babies in intensive care, women with high-risk pregnancies and people who need anesthesia could receive unexpected bills in the mail as a result of the fight between Mednax, the physician-staffing firm, and UnitedHealth Group.

Go deeperArrow50 mins ago - Health

Companies are behaving like it's a recession

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Despite historically low interest rates, U.S. companies are being unusually frugal, holding back on issuing new debt and pumping up their balance sheets with cash.

Why it matters: Historically, when interest rates are low and the economy is strong, companies have levered up to increase capital expenditures and buy assets in order to expand. The opposite is happening now.

Coronavirus kills 2 Diamond Princess passengers and South Korea sees first death

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. U.S. numbers include Americans extracted from Princess Cruise ship.

Two elderly Diamond Princess passengers have been killed by the novel coronavirus — the first deaths confirmed among the more than 600 infected aboard the cruise ship. South Korea also announced its first death Thursday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has now killed more than 2,200 people and infected over 75,465 others, mostly in mainland China, where the National Health Commission announced 118 new deaths since Thursday.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 9 hours ago - Health