President Trump reportedly asked then-acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker late last year if he could make U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Geoffrey Berman, one of his allies, head of the federal probe into hush-money payments made during the 2016 campaign. The New York Times reports that Whitaker was aware he couldn’t put Berman in charge of the investigation, as the federal prosecutor had already recused himself from it. It’s unclear how Whitaker ultimately responded to Trump’s request, but the president eventually “soured” on the acting attorney general, who was replaced by William Barr last week. In a statement, the Justice Department said Whitaker stood by his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, in which he claimed he had not “provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel’s investigation or any other investigation.” Trump also denied asking Whitaker about an SDNY recusal matter, telling a reporter, “No, I don’t know who gave you that.”
The Times reports the president also employed other methods while attempted to curb the federal investigations into him and his associates. Trump reportedly “encouraged” Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Jim Jordan (R-OH) to launch a congressional probe into the FBI’s investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and others in Trump’s orbit.