Trump denies report he asked to install ally to oversee hush money payment investigation

Credit: Evan Vucci

Credit: Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump called the New York Times a “true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!” Wednesday while denying a report that he asked his then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker last year if one of his allies could be made to oversee an investigation into his role in hush money payments made to women in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

“The New York Times reporting is false,” Trump said Wednesday. In a separate tweet posted earlier Wednesday, the president said the news media “has never been more dishonest than it is today.”

Citing unidentified sources, the Times reported Tuesday that Trump called Whitaker late last year to ask whether Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, could be put in charge of the investigation. Berman, who was appointed by Trump, had recused himself from the matter earlier in the year, before FBI agents raided the home and office of Trump's former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, ABC News reported.

According to the Times, Whitaker said privately that he believed his chief role at the Justice Department was to "jump on a grenade" for Trump. However, he knew appointing Berman would be impossible because Berman had already recused himself from the investigation, the Times reported.

It was not entirely clear what Whitaker did after Trump made his request, but the Times reported "there is no evidence that he took any direct steps to intervene in the Manhattan investigation." The newspaper added that he did, however, tell some people in the Justice Department that the New York prosecutors needed "adult supervision."

While testifying Feb. 8 before the House Judiciary Committee, Whitaker said he had not been asked to interfere in any investigation, including the SDNY probe and special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its possible ties to Trump and his campaign officials.

"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," Whitaker said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The New York investigation, headed by Deputy U.S. Attorney Robert Khuzami, has thus far led to several charges against Cohen. He pleaded guilty in August to charges including multiple counts of tax evasion and a campaign finance charge stemming from payments made to two women who posed a danger to Trump’s campaign.

He said the payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels and former Playboy playmate Karen McDougal were made at Trump’s direction. He has since agreed to work with investigators.

Several investigations are ongoing into Trump and his campaign.

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