Special counsel Robert Mueller drafted indictments against Donald Trump before ultimately deciding against charging the sitting president with obstruction of justice, according to a new book penned by author Michael Wolff.
The alleged three-count obstruction of justice indictment was immediately disputed by a spokesperson for the special counsel after first being reported on Tuesday. The Guardian reportedly viewed the indictment documents while reviewing a copy of the book Siege: Trump Under Fire.
However, according to Mr Mueller’s spokesperson Peter Carr, those documents “do not exist”.
The reported draft document would have allegedly charged Mr Trump with influencing, obstructing or impeding a pending proceeding before a department or agency of the United States, according to the outlet, along with tampering with a witness, victim or informant and retaliating against a witness, victim or informant. The charges fall under Title 18, United States Code, Section 1505, 1512 and 1513 respectively.
The alleged indictment went on to describe “extraordinary lengths” the president took “to protect himself from legal scrutiny and accountability, and to undermine the official panels investigating his actions,” according to Mr Wolff – whose explosive first book about the Trump presidency, called Fire and Fury, sold nearly five million copies.
Revelations of the alleged indictments arrive as Congressional Democrats seek to bring the special counsel before committees investigating the president’s potential obstruction of justice outlined in Mr Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The massive report detailed at least 11 cases in which the president possibly committed obstruction of justice. Democratic leadership on Capitol Hill have suggested the special counsel was passing the decision to Congress about whether to implicate the president in a high crime or misdemeanour.
Mr Mueller has not yet indicated whether he intends to testify before Congress, and rarely releases public statements through his spokespeople. But the author’s controversial new claims could almost certainly be expected to lead the news cycle as Mr Trump returns from his official state visit to Japan over the holiday weekend.
More than a thousand former federal prosecutors have signed an open letter stating Mr Trump would have been charged with obstruction of justice based on the special counsel’s report, were it not for Justice Department guidelines that say a sitting president cannot be charged.
The alleged indictments against Mr Trump reportedly dispute those guidelines, however.
“The Impeachment Judgment Clause, which applies equally to all civil officers including the president … takes for granted … that an officer may be subject to indictment and prosecution before impeachment,” the reported document reads, according to The Guardian. “If it did not, the clause would be creating, for civil officers, precisely the immunity the Framers rejected.”
The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.