John F. Kelly, who was former President Donald J. Trump’s second White House chief of staff, said in an affidavit that Trump had discussed having the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies investigate two officials of the FBI involved in the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.
Mr. Kelly said his recollection of Mr. Trump’s comments to him was based on notes he made at the time in 2018. Mr. Kelly provided copies of his notes to lawyers for one of the FBI officials, who said issued the public affidavit in a court document.
« President Trump has questioned whether an investigation by the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agencies should be undertaken into Mr. Strzok and/or Ms. Page, » Kelly said in the statement. “I don’t know if President Trump has ordered such an investigation. It seemed, however, that he wanted to see Mr. Strzok and Mrs. Page investigated.
Mr. Kelly’s claims were disclosed Thursday in a statement that was filed in connection with lawsuits filed by Peter Strzok, who was the lead agent in the FBI’s Russia investigation, and Lisa Page, a former attorney with the office , against the Justice Department for violating their privacy rights when the Trump administration sent public text messages to each other.
Mr. Kelly’s revelations, made under penalty of perjury, demonstrate the extent of Mr. Trump’s interest in using law enforcement and the federal government’s investigative powers to target his alleged enemies. In the aftermath of Richard M. Nixon’s presidency, Congress made it illegal for a president to « directly or indirectly » order an IRS investigation or audit.
The New York Times reported last July that two of Trump’s biggest alleged enemies – James B. Comey, whom he fired as FBI director, and Mr. Comey’s deputy, Andrew G. McCabe – were subjected to the same type of and invasive IRS check.
It is unknown whether the IRS investigated Mr. Strzok or Ms. Page. But Mr. Strzok has become a subject in Special Counsel John Durham’s investigation into how the FBI investigated Mr. Trump’s campaign. Neither Mr. Strzok nor Ms. Page have been charged in connection with that investigation, which former law enforcement officials and Democrats have criticized as an attempt to carry out Mr. Trump’s vendetta against the office. Mr. Strzok also sued the department for wrongful termination.
Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page exchanged text messages critical of Mr. Trump and were later made public by Rod J. Rosenstein, then Deputy Attorney General under Mr. Trump, as he faced heavy criticism from Republicans at the Capitol Hill who were trying to find ways to weaken it.
Mr. Kelly’s affidavits are similar to ones he gave to The New York Times in November, in which he said Mr. Trump had told him he wanted a number of his alleged political enemies investigated by the IRS, including Mr Comey, Mr McCabe, Mr Strzok and Mrs Page.
Mr. Kelly told the Times last year that Mr. Trump’s demands were part of a larger pattern of attempts to use the Justice Department and his authority as president against people who had criticized him, including trying to revoke the security clearances of former top intelligence officials.
In the affidavit, Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Trump had discussed revoking Mr. Strzok’s and Ms. Page’s security clearances, although Mr. Kelly took no action on the idea. Mr. Kelly said his notes showed Mr. Trump discussed the two’s investigation on Feb. 21, 2018.
“I have not noted every instance where then President Trump made a comment about Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page,” Kelly said. “President Trump generally frowned upon taking notes in meetings. He has expressed concern that the notes could be used against him later. »
Mr. Kelly said he never took steps to comply with Mr. Trump’s wishes to have his enemies investigated.
Mr Trump said he knew nothing of the audits of Mr Comey and Mr McCabe and their spouses. The IRS Inspector General found last year that Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe had been selected at random for the audits, although the Inspector General’s report acknowledged some deviations from the IRS’ strict rules for selection random when the agency made final selections of returns that would be verified.
Mr. Kelly told the Times last year that Mr. Trump had at times discussed using the IRS and the Justice Department to address others besides Mr. Comey, Mr. McCabe, Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page.
They included, Mr. Kelly said, former CIA Director John O. Brennan; HillaryClinton; and Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, whose coverage often angered Trump.