Trump wanted ally to lead probe targeting him

NYT: Trump asked Whitaker if he could put prosecutor in charge of Cohen probe

Trump soured on Whitaker as well, according to Times, which said it was "unclear" what Whitaker did after the call.

The Fox News legal analyst told the network's Shepard Smith that The New York Times report claiming Trump asked former Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker to replace the prosecutor in charge of the case involving Michael Cohen, National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, and Trump himself in New York City would be devastating if it is true.

As federal prosecutors in Manhattan gathered evidence late a year ago about President Trump's role in silencing women with hush payments during the 2016 campaign, Mr. Trump called Matthew G. Whitaker, his newly installed attorney general, with a question. Cohen said they were made "in coordination and at the direction" of Trump.

The Times report cited several United States officials with direct knowledge of the call that the paper said occurred late a year ago.

The report sparked concern from Democratic lawmakers, who said it conflicted with Whitaker's statements to the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee earlier this month that Trump never attempted to meddle in any investigation.

More news: Bernie Sanders announces run for USA presidency in 2020

The probe focused on hush money Cohen paid out to women during the election campaign who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

"More fake news", Trump told reporters.

The Times reported that the President asked Whitaker to get Trump-friendly attorney Geoffrey Berman in Manhattan to head the Cohen investigation, even though Berman had recused himself from the probe. "There is a lot of fake news out there. There is an issue where there is not a separation [between] the Department of Justice and the White House", CNN's April Ryan said. "The fact that [acting Attorney General Matt] Whitaker, based on this reporting, at least initially said, no, I can't do that, shows how far this president wants to push".

Napolitano said if such a phone call took place, it would amount to evidence of "corrupt intent" by the president to try to hinder the investigation.

Because Whitaker had testified under oath to the House of Representatives that "at no time has the White House asked for nor have I provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation", he is now under the congressional microscope to determine whether or not he committed perjury.

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