Author Michael Wolff’s second book on Donald Trump triggered an immediate backlash on Tuesday after an explosive claim about the man who investigated ties with Russia was flatly denied by his spokesman.
In the new book, the sequel to his controversial Fire and Fury, Mr Wolff claimed that special counsel Robert Mueller drafted up a three-count indictment against the president on obstruction of justice charges.
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According to a copy seen by The Guardian, Mr Wolff quotes extensively from this document in Siege: Trump Under Fire.
Mr Wolff reports that the special counsel’s office drew up the the charges under Title 18 of the US criminal code. The document, which was entitled "United States of America against Donald J Trump, Defendant", reportedly sat on Mr Mueller’s desk for almost a year.
The first count charged Mr Trump with corruptly influencing or obstructing a pending proceeding before a US department or agency, according to the newspaper. The second charged him with tampering with a witness or informant and the third charged him with retaliating against a witness or informant.
The claim is explosive because Mr Mueller outlined in his final report on the near two-year investigation that he had decided not to bring charges against the president.
However a spokesman for the special counsel said: “The documents described do not exist.”
The US Justice Department’s guidelines state that a sitting president cannot be charged with a crime, however Mr Mueller recounted in detail 11 incidents of alleged obstruction of justice by the president in his 448-page report, including an attempt to have the special counsel removed from his position.
Ultimately Mr Mueller’s office did not make a decision on whether Mr Trump had committed a crime, instead stating: “While this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
It is unclear where the document Mr Wolff quotes from originated, but according to the author the draft indictment states Mr Trump’s attempts to obstruct justice began on the seventh day of his administration, when his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, lied to the FBI about his contacts with Russian representatives.
Mr Trump has not yet responded to the claims made in Mr Wolff’s new book. The president’s attempts to ban the publication of Fire and Fury resulted in it becoming an instant bestseller, with close to five million copies sold. The new book is due to be published on June 4.