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Trump wanted McConnell to 'protect him' from Russia scandal probe

Donald Trump had the same expectations for Jeff Sessions, James Comey, and Mitch McConnell: "protect him" from the investigation into the Russia scandal.
Image: Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell
Senate Majority Leader Republican Mitch McConnell (C) walks to his office after leaving the Senate floor following votes on a package of nominations, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, USA, 03 August 2017. 

Donald Trump has clashed with Attorney General Jeff Sessions because the president expected the nation's chief law-enforcement official to shield the White House from the investigation into the Russia scandal. Trump also clashed with former FBI Director James Comey -- whom Trump ultimately fired -- because the president wanted Comey to protect him from the same probe.

And as Rachel noted on last night's show, the New York Times reports that Trump has also clashed with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for -- you guessed it -- not doing more to shield him from the investigation that threatens to derail his presidency.

In a series of tweets this month, Mr. Trump criticized Mr. McConnell publicly, and berated him in a phone call that quickly devolved into a profane shouting match.During the call, which Mr. Trump initiated on Aug. 9 from his New Jersey golf club, the president accused Mr. McConnell of bungling the health care issue. He was even more animated about what he intimated was the Senate leader's refusal to protect him from investigations of Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to Republicans briefed on the conversation.

At face value, the fact that the Republican president and the Republican leader in the Senate engaged in "a profane shouting match" is itself a dramatic development, to the extent that intra-party warfare may affect GOP policymakers' ability to govern in the Trump era.

But there's another angle to this that warrants scrutiny: if Trump pressured McConnell to intervene in senators' investigation into the Russia affair, that may bolster allegations that the president obstructed justice.

To be sure, there's already reason to suspect Trump obstructed justice when the president fired the director of the FBI to, in Trump's words, relieve the "pressure" of the investigation into the scandal. But under federal law, the president cannot attempt to "impede" any congressional investigation, either.

In other words, when we think of obstruction of justice, we tend to think of law enforcement (police, prosecutors, the FBI, etc.). But as Rachel explained on the show, it also applies to, according to the relevant criminal statute, "any inquiry or investigation ... being had by either House, or any committee of either House or any joint committee of the Congress."

If the New York Times' reporting is accurate, and the president pressured McConnell to "protect him" from Senate probes into the Trump-Russia scandal, that is very much the sort of thing that might be of interest to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team. In fact, it's hardly outlandish to believe the Senate majority leader could be seen as a witness.

Perhaps Trump should've been nicer to McConnell.