Report: Mueller Has Copy Of Trump’s Original Letter Justifying Firing James Comey

While the rest of us have been distracted by a hurricane in Texas, Robert Mueller's investigation continues moving forward.

Trump Russia

The New York Times is reporting that special counsel Robert Mueller has the early draft of a letter justifying the firing of former F.B.I. Director James Comey that was apparently so incendiary that the White House Counsel stepped in to stop President Trump from sending it:

WASHINGTON — The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, has obtained a letter that President Trump and a top political aide drafted in the days before Mr. Trump fired the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, which explains the president’s rationale for why he planned to dismiss the director.

The May letter had been met with opposition from Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, who believed that some of its contents were problematic, according to interviews with a dozen administration officials and others briefed on the matter.

Mr. McGahn successfully blocked the president from sending Mr. Comey the letter, which Mr. Trump had composed with Stephen Miller, one of the president’s top political advisers. A different letter, written by the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and focused on Mr. Comey’s handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s private email server, was ultimately sent to the F.B.I. director on the day he was fired

The contents of the original letter appear to provide the clearest rationale that Mr. Trump had for firing Mr. Comey. The Times has not seen a copy of the letter and it is unclear how much of Mr. Trump’s rationale focuses on the Russia investigation. Mr. Trump told aides at the time he was angry that Mr. Comey refused to publicly say that Mr. Trump himself was not under investigation, something Mr. Comey had told the president privately.

Mr. Comey later confirmed in testimony to Congress in June that he had told the president that he was not under investigation, but said he didn’t make that public because the status could change in the future.

Mr. Mueller is conducting a wide-ranging investigation into Russia and associates of Mr. Trump, including whether the president obstructed justice when he dismissed the F.B.I. director.

The Justice Department turned over a copy of the letter to Mr. Mueller in recent weeks.

Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer, declined to discuss the letter or its contents. “To the extent the special prosecutor is interested in these matters, we will be fully transparent with him,” he said.

Mr. Miller drafted the letter at the urging of Mr. Trump during a weekend in May, when Mr. Trump and his team were at the president’s private golf club in Bedminster, N.J. During that same weekend, as Mr. Trump and a small group of aides were in Bedminster devising a rationale for Mr. Comey’s dismissal, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Mr. Rosenstein were working on a parallel effort to fire Mr. Comey.

It’s been apparent for some time now, that the firing of former Director Comey has become a particular focus of Mueller’s investigation, particularly its potential or actual connection to the then-ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the election and contacts between Russian officials and people close to Trump during the course of the campaign. While it’s unclear what this original draft of the letter may have said, the strong implication appears to be that it gives far different reasons for the decision than the ones the Administration cited when  Trump fired Comey just a week after the Director had testified before a Senate Committee, where he confirmed that the Bureau was investigating both attempts by Russia to interfere in the 2016 elections and contacts between Russian officials and Trump campaign officials. At that time, both Trump’s letter to Comey and a memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that accompanied it, it was claimed that Comey was fired due to his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email and handling of classified information while Secretary of State. It soon became clear, however, that Trump’s real motivation for firing Comey was the Russia investigation.  Additionally, while the Rosenstein letter was represented as being something drafted to convince Trump why Comey should be fired, we learned after the fact that Rosenstein already knew that Comey would be fired before he started drafting the letter.  Within a week after the firing in May, Trump’s real motivation for firing Comey became clear when he admitted n both a televised interview with NBC News’s Lester Holt and in an Oval Office conversation with the Russian Ambassador and Foreign Minister that he fired Comey because of the Russia investigation. Later, we learned that Trump’s attempts to intervene in the Russia investigation extended beyond Comey and included conversations with top intelligence officials about ending the investigation.

As noted, the Times report doesn’t reveal the contents of the original draft of the letter, but one can assume that the justification it presents for firing Comey is far different from the one ultimately presented to the public on May 9th. What’s perhaps most significant is the fact that the White House Counsel felt it necessary to step in to stop Trump from sending the letter, which leads to the assumption that it was so incendiary that it had the potential to damage the President, Administration, and the Presidency. This most likely means that it relied primarily on Trump’s frustrations over the Russia investigation and the fact that Comey would not play along with his requests to drop the investigation or at least release a statement saying that the President was not a target of the investigation. If that’s the case, then the evidence in favor of potential obstruction of justice would seem to be stronger. As it stands, though, we don’t know what this draft says, although I presume we’ll find out soon enough.


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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. CSK says:

    “…some of its contents were problematic.”

    I’m sure that will turn out to be one of the epic understatements of the year.

  2. Smooth Jazz says:

    “Report: Mueller Has Copy Of Trump’s Original Letter Justifying Firing James Comey”

    LOL, I hate to break to you far left zealots. Contrary to the predictions of left wing hacks like Nate Silver and all your MSM “polls”, HILLARY LOST THE ELECTION. This means that Donald Trump is President and can fire anybody he wants in the executive branch, including and especially snakes like James Comey, who we now know rigged the system in favor of Hillary and Liberals. It doesn’t really matter what the reason for his firing was. That lefty hack Mueller and his cadre of Clinton Foundation and Obama sycophant lawyers don’t run our Gov’t.

    You can keep chasing the Russia rabbit hole to her hearts content, but there is NO THERE THERE. Hillary lost because she was a terrible candidate who was viewed as more terrible than the enigmatic and narcissistic Trump.

    You far left cranks do need to get out more. Sheesh.

  3. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Drip, drip…….how many drips is this now?

  4. Franklin says:

    … rubbing hands together gleefully …

  5. CSK says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    You’re missing the point about the original letter: Whatever was in it, The WH lawyer wouldn’t allow Trump to send it, probably because the contents were litigable.

    P.S. Everyone knows Clinton lost. This matter has nothing to do with that.

  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Donald Trump is President and can fire anybody he wants in the executive branch

    Yup…but he cannot do it to obstruct justice…which at this point looks like a slam dunk case.
    Not sure why you think Clinton matters in this…maybe you got your talking points confused. Have you taken your meds today?

  7. Moosebreath says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    “snakes like James Comey, who we now know rigged the system in favor of Hillary and Liberals”

    “lefty hack Mueller”

    Clearly, you’ve been listening to too much Kenny G. There is no other explanation for saying things which are this delusional.

  8. Mikey says:

    This explains yesterday’s GOP blather about Comey writing a draft memo concerning the Clinton investigation a few weeks before his public announcement.

    That was a nothingburger, of course, a routine action the Director took as the investigation neared its end and it became increasingly obvious little would come from it.

    On the other hand, Trump and Miller wrote a letter that Trump’s chief counsel wouldn’t let go out the door. That seems rather significant, no?

  9. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:


    Everyone knows Clinton lost

    While winning by 3 million votes.

  10. Franklin says:

    Anybody whose first response is something about Hillary has nothing productive to add to the conversation and can be safely ignored (and *should* be ignored). Again, I was over the election in about 36 hours. It’s only conservatives who keep talking about Hillary.

  11. michael reynolds says:

    @Smooth Jazz:
    Mmmm, is that the sweet smell of fear wafting from you, Jazz? Is it just starting to penetrate your little cult-wired brain that maybe, just maybe, this Russia thing is going to be a problem? You no longer plead innocence, you plead raw power: Trumpy can do whatever Trumpy wants.

    Well, keep telling yourself that, pal.

    Here’s the state of things. After 7 months Trump has gained zero supporters. He’s seen – even by many of his voters – as a bully and a liar. Check out this Fox News poll. 30% overall say he’s honest. 35% think he’s competent. 25% say he’s a moral leader.

    His support is 20 points underwater and his supporters are far mushier than his opponents. He is an embarrassment to his supporters who actually managed to convince themselves they really had something here. What they had was a pathological liar, an indecent creep of a narcissist, a criminal, a traitor and on top of it all the most incompetent president in modern history.

    He’s guilty. You know it, I know it, anyone with a pulse knows it. Trump is absolutely, unquestionably guilty of multiple felonies including obstruction of justice, collusion, taking bribes from foreign powers and almost certainly money-laundering. The noose is already chafing his wattles. If he was anyone but President he’d already have been arrested.

    And secretly you know it. Which is why your usual effort at intellectual content is now down to, “We won! MAGA!”

    The transplant has been rejected by the body. The United States of America ain’t having it. Your choices now are either cut your losses and welcome President Pence, or keep playing that tired violin while the ship sinks beneath the waves.

  12. Kylopod says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    Contrary to the predictions of left wing hacks like Nate Silver and all your MSM “polls”, HILLARY LOST THE ELECTION.

    Silver never predicted that Hillary would win. His site’s final estimate was that she had a 70% chance of winning. That estimate wasn’t wrong; that’s a pretty accurate assessment of how often polls successfully predict the outcome of elections this close. The site also warned readers that only a very normal polling error would be needed for Trump to win.

    I also should remind you that you were saying the exact same thing in 2012:

    And I don’t need a rigged NY Times or PPP/DailyKOS or any other poll pushed by far left zealot Nate Silver that polls 10 – 20% more Dems than Reps to tell me otherwise.

    You do not appear to have any understanding of what the word “crank” means. Silver is respected in part because he has a record of making better predictions than nearly everyone else in the business. His site’s predictions have overall been very accurate, not only in those elections that were good for Dems, like 2008 and 2012, but also those ones that were bad for them, as in 2010 and 2014. That’s the very essence of someone who’s intellectually honest and not a hack or a crank.

    You, on the other hand, just mindlessly apply the term “far left crank” to anyone who says things you don’t want to hear. And that, ironically, is exactly what makes you a crank.

  13. MBunge says:

    It soon became clear, however, that Trump’s real motivation for firing Comey was the Russia investigation.

    That’s seem true, if by “Russia investigation” you mean “Trump was pissed off that Comey wouldn’t tell the truth and contradict all the people lying about Trump.”

    I would like to have someone explain to me why Comey thought it was okay to leak a bunch of stuff that made Trump look bad but believed information that made Trump look good had to be kept secret at all costs.


  14. CSK says:

    Well, now, this is interesting: Keith Schiller, Trump’s bodyguard/advisor/director of Oval Office Operations, is bailing.

    The reason Schiller gives is financial. But wasn’t he the one who was supposed to hand-deliver the firing letter to Comey? Yes, he was, but Comey wasn’t at FBI HQ to receive it.

    And…Schiller isn’t happy with Kelly.

  15. michael reynolds says:

    Now that you are all the way in the cult, do they have any special outfits? Purple sneakers maybe?

  16. Not the IT Dept. says:

    SJ: yeah, Trump won. How does that make you any less of a loser?

  17. HarvardLaw92 says:

    I told you guys – he’s essentially reassembled the team from the Southern District that gutted the Gambinos. They are not f’king about here. They mean business.

    This team is serious, they’re motivated and, most of all, they’re the absolute best at what they do. Stay tuned to this same Bat-Channel for more exciting episodes 😀

  18. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @HarvardLaw92: Will there come a time when Trump’s advisors/staff/toadies/hangers-on/sycophants/whatever are going to decide that the need to stop protecting Trump from himself? Will I need an industrial size corn popper then? Should I go to air popped popcorn for my health?

  19. CSK says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    The NYTimes today quoted Kelly as saying that Trumpysitting is the hardest job he’s ever had.

  20. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    There will come a time when somebody noticeably and publicly flips in exchange for immunity (if Sater hasn’t already). Once that happens, you’ll see a rush for the exits as people become more worried about their own survival than they are about Trump’s. There won’t be a hiding rock left open in DC.

  21. HarvardLaw92 says:


    And yea, I’d invest in an air popper if you haven’t already done so. You might want to stock up on popcorn as well while it’s still affordable. This is going to be one hell of a show, friends.

  22. CET says:


    I would like to have someone explain to me why Comey thought it was okay to leak a bunch of stuff that made Trump look bad but believed information that made Trump look good had to be kept secret at all costs.

    Which information, specifically are you talking about leaking and keeping a secret? If this is still about Comey not wanting to publicly announce whether or not Trump was under investigation, he made it pretty clear that if he publicly announced that Trump wasn’t being investigated, and that changed for any reason, he would be obligated to publicly announce that now Trump was being investigated. If you don’t think that’s a big deal (and something that was worth avoiding), just ask the Clinton campaign….

  23. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    Interesting Factoid #1: Here’s a part of that New York Times report that Mr. Mataconis didn’t find worthy of repeating:

    Mr. McGahn met again that same day with Mr. Trump and told him that if he fired Mr. Comey, the Russia investigation would not go away. Mr. Trump told him, according to senior administration officials, that he understood that firing the F.B.I. director might extend the Russia investigation, but that he wanted to do it anyway.

    Interesting factoid #2: in a parallel development regarding early drafts of documents, Mr. Comey wrote a draft of his final report exonerating Hillary Clinton in his investigation back in April 2016 – months before the investigation got around to actually interviewing Hillary and her key aides.

  24. Liberal Capitalist says:


    I would like to have someone explain to me why Comey thought it was okay to leak a bunch of stuff that made Trump look bad but believed information that made Trump look good had to be kept secret at all costs.


    Would you care to share any of POTUS Trump’s actions, since he’s been elected, that make him look good?

    So far as I see, he appointed a seat to the Supreme Court that was stolen from the past POTUS, there have been no legislative successes, there have been a stream of Executive Orders (which he railed against before he became president), a phenomenal amount of vacations and golf games (which he railed against before he became president), and … what?

    I would LOVE to talk about the successes that have made America greater.

    I would LOVE to be so impressed by his business accumen and governing savvy.

    Maybe I’ve missed it, since I only read “fake news” like this site.

    So: What has POTUS Trump actually done that is good?

    On what will he run that will allow for his reelection in 2020?

    How are his actions strengthening his party’s position for 2018 midterms?

  25. michael reynolds says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Good wittle Trumpie, you regurgitate the Hannity/Breitbart line perfectly.

    But it doesn’t matter. Only the cultists are convinced and their numbers are shrinking. We are well past Peak Trump, and screeching Hillary! isn’t going to work any better than your previous idiot obsession with Benghazi! Hillary is gone, Trump is here, and Mueller is going to annihilate Trump. When this is all done Trump will be lucky to escape prison and keep a few million dollars.

    You have no idea how fwcked Trump is.

  26. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @michael reynolds: You’ve been pronouncing Trump finished for well over a year now. I guess that eventually you’ll be right, but you’ve been spectacularly wrong so far.

    So, just what will bring down Trump? Russian money? Putin spent a hell of a lot more buying Hillary and her cronies. The Podesta brothers are far more likely to end up in jail before Trump — their little endeavor filed tax papers that concealed just how much they’d taken from Russia.

    And note that I quoted the very same article that Mr. Mataconis built his whole piece on, but somehow omitted. I’m sure that it put a huge hurting on his whole thesis was just an accident.

    I do understand your confidence, though — at least, that which isn’t fueled by alcohol. Mueller’s stuffed his team with lawyers with impeccable Democratic credentials, so we can be fully confident that they won’t bury anything that makes their fellow Democrats look bad, and will be scrupulously honest and fair in their investigation of the guy who destroyed their crooked messiaH and made all those donations worthless.

    Now don’t you have some Antifa terrorists to subsidize? Or maybe see what’s going on in New Jersey — you wouldn’t know it from this site, but a sitting United States senator is in criminal court, facing major corruption charges. And last week the former Senate Majority Leader was implicated in that trial.

    But since Bob Menendez and Harry Reid are Democrats, they get the blackout treatment here. Move along, nothing to see.

  27. michael reynolds says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Blah, blah, blah, Hillary, Hillary, Hillary.

    J-e-n-o-s no one is listening. You’re repeating lies that no one, absolutely no one outside Cult45 is buying. You can regurgitate Hannity and Breitbart all day long but no one is buying. Increasingly even your fellow Trumpies aren’t buying.

    30% honest, that’s the number that kills you, dude, 30% of Americans believe Trump is honest. You know what that means? It means 70% of the country dismisses the man-baby out of hand. His own staff is ignoring him, isolating him, trying to cut off the flow of the kind of drivel you lap up, trying to keep him off Twitter, trying desperately to convince foreign leaders to ignore the president of the United States.

    Trump is being isolated, surrounded by adults because everyone smarter than you – which is nearly everyone – recognizes that Trump is mentally unbalanced, intellectually incapable and morally depraved. He’s not being isolated by Democrats – it’s Republicans doing it. His own people know he’s a sick man.

    And by the way, you and your fellow white supremacists, Klansmen and Nazis are exposed. The country got a good look at you and your fellow travelers and vomited.

  28. rachel says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker: Whatever you do, you should use real butter. That artificial crap is unhealthy.

  29. Kylopod says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    Interesting Factoid #3: Your “Bob the Arqubusier” persona has been decisively exposed as a liar and a troll, and you’d better find yet another screen name to post under just so you can pretend for a little while longer that you have a shred of credibility left.

    Or you can continue to delude yourself into thinking you’re actually accomplishing something other than getting your ass handed to you, again and again and again. Suit yourself!

  30. Bob The Arqubusier says:

    @michael reynolds:

    And by the way, you and your fellow white supremacists, Klansmen and Nazis are exposed. The country got a good look at you and your fellow travelers and vomited.

    I’m a Nazi,
    She’s a Nazi,
    He’s a Nazi,
    Wouldn’t you like to be a Nazi too?
    Be a Nazi! Drink Dr. Nazi!

    Don’t be stupid, be a smarty!
    Come and join the Nazi party!

    I’d guess that the number of actual, committed Nazis in the US would be outnumbered by the attendance at a typical Chris Brown concert. They’re less than a rounding error in the big picture.

    But your side needs its boogeyman, and they’re the best you can find. Because without your boogeyman, you can’t rationalize things like your own Stormtrooper faction, the actually fascist “Antifa.”

    And here’s something that might surprise you. I actually agree with 50-75% of the criticisms of Trump. He’s a lousy guy, he’s got some major flaws. But for me, he has two things going for him.

    1) He has this amazing gift where, whenever he does something bad or stupid, he makes his enemies so overreact that their response makes them look even worse than him.

    2) Hillary was worse.

    And as much as you want to pretend that that’s irrelevant, it’s still one of the most pertinent facts. Because, last November, the nation was presented with a strictly binary choice: Donald or Hillary. The best your side could offer, after rigging everything in her favor as best they could (look how the supposedly-neutral DNC and media rigged the electoral process and took out her Democratic rivals) — and a whole bunch of us who weren’t that fond of Trump to begin with (I voted for Cruz in the primary, and don’t regret that vote one bit) held our noses and voted “Never Hillary.”

    So you say Trump is “divisive.” In 2008, my side put up someone infamous for “crossing the aisle” and working with and winning praise from the other side. We got kicked in the teeth.

    So you say Trump isn’t qualified to act as the “moral leader” of the nation. We put up one of the most moral people to run for president in 2012. We got kicked in the teeth.

    So this time around a lot of us got sick of letting you decide what qualities determine the best candidate, then changing the rules and kicking us in the teeth, and we sent up someone who kicks back. McCain and Romney taught us that being a “good loser” means you’re still a loser, so we thought we’d give you a chance to show what a “good loser” acts like.

    And it ain’t pretty.

    We got Trump because, by and large, of how you handled McCain and Romney. (Especially Romney. We remember him saying that Russia was the major geopolitical threat, and you destroyed him over that. Now, four years later, when you need an excuse for Hillary’s loss, you’ve suddenly discovered his wisdom — after you polish off his fingerprints.)

    We’re not in love with Trump. We just like how he’s driving all the right people bonkers. And if you do manage in destroying Trump, we’ll just shrug that off and go back to work.

    Because next time you’ll get Worse Than Trump.

    And we’ll remember that your old words — “elections have consequences” — no longer apply. We’re taking very careful note of all your tactics you’re using to take down Trump, and if they succeed, they’re now fair game for us to use, too.

    I really don’t think you’ll like the right-wing answer to Antifa. I already know I don’t.

    And I really don’t want to see the right-wing answer to James Hodgkinson, but I know he’s out there. And I know he’s not alone.

  31. Kylopod says:

    @Bob The Arqubusier:

    We’re not in love with Trump. We just like how he’s driving all the right people bonkers.

    Uh huh.

    Let me explain something to you. What I’m about to say may strike you as very alien to your experience, but it’s the honest-to-God truth.

    You see, when I go online to debate politics with strangers, I have one basic goal. That goal is, namely, to use logic and evidence in support of my point of view and against those who hold alternate points of view. If the other person’s logic and evidence turns out to be more compelling than my own, than I may have to rethink my views. But if the person cannot defend their point of view against my challenges, that means they lose the argument. It doesn’t automatically mean they’re wrong, but it does mean they have lost the opportunity to convince anyone who wasn’t already convinced.

    Over the years, as I have got into debates online with conservatives, one thing I have seen fairly consistently is that most conservatives don’t have the faintest idea how to defend their views against factual and evidentiary challenges. Indeed, I wouldn’t even call most of my encounters with conservatives “debates” at all. What usually happens is that they state something that is factually untrue, I bring evidence that objectively destroys what they just said, and then they just disappear. Or, occasionally, they pretend to “respond” but don’t actually address my rebuttal at all.

    It really is amazing to see firsthand that most conservatives have a worldview that is built on sand. But what is even more amazing is how oblivious they are to this fact even when it’s staring right in front of them. All the Foxoid trolls we have here–Jack, Guarneri, Bill, and so on–are getting constantly pummeled, and yet they always end the conversation not only with 100% confidence that they are absolutely right, but apparently believing that they’ve successfully bested the weenie libtards we all self-evidently are. They’re the Don Quixote of debaters, not only deluded about the issues but even about the most basic protocols of conversation.

    That brings me to you. You’ve been repeatedly caught spreading blatantly false information. And what do you do each time? You either ignore it and disappear from the thread, or you adopt the “Gish Gallop” method of just spewing more BS, hoping to overwhelm us so that we can’t answer everything and at least something will stick.

    In your case, I can’t blame it all on delusion. You know you’re being dishonest, and yet you do it anyway. The fact that you can live with yourself is what’s intriguing.

    But I think what you said above is the clearest statement of your objectives: you aim to “drive all the right people bonkers.” That’s your ultimate end game, your raison detre. So it really doesn’t matter to you whether your views can hold up rationally or intellectually, all that matters is whether you “drive the other person bonkers,” which to you is pretty easy to do given that you seem to define that concept as “getting them to react negatively to you at all.”

    If that’s your goal, I really have nothing more to say. In a way we have a mutually beneficial situation here: you get to “drive us bonkers,” we get to kick your ass in the debate. Who said we both can’t be happy?

  32. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Smooth Jazz: You don’t know much about our system of government, do you, troll?

  33. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:


    In your case, I can’t blame it all on delusion. You know you’re being dishonest, and yet you do it anyway. The fact that you can live with yourself is what’s intriguing.

    This is why I periodically remind myself that guys like Sockpuppet are not actually real people. Sockpuppet is simply a character that he plays on the Interwebs. Kind of like Phil Hendrie does (at least used to do–since he’s gone podcast, I don’t follow him).