John F. Kelly, who served as former President Donald J. Trump’s second White House chief of staff, said in a sworn statement that Mr. Trump discussed having the Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies investigate two FBI officials involved in the investigation into his campaign’s ties to Russia.
Mr. Kelly said his recollection of Mr. Trump’s comments to him was based on notes he took at the time in 2018. Mr. Kelly provided copies of his notes to lawyers for one of the FBI officials who made the sworn statement. public in a court file.
“President Trump questioned whether investigations by the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agencies should be conducted into Mr. Strzok and/or Ms. Page,” Mr. Kelly said in the statement. “I don’t know that President Trump has ordered such an investigation. It seemed, however, that he wants to see Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page investigated.”
Mr. Kelly’s claims were revealed Thursday in a statement filed in connection with lawsuits brought by Peter Strzok, who was the lead agent in the FBI’s Russia investigation, and Lisa Page, a former attorney in the bureau, against the Department of Justice for violating their privacy rights when the Trump administration made public text messages between them.
Mr. Kelly’s disclosures, made under penalty of perjury, demonstrate the extent of Mr. Trump’s interest in using the federal government’s police and investigative powers to target his perceived enemies. In the wake of Richard M. Nixon’s presidency, Congress made it illegal for a president to “directly or indirectly” order an IRS investigation or audit.
The New York Times reported last July that two of Mr. Trump’s biggest perceived enemies — James B. Comey, whom he fired as FBI director, and Mr. Comey’s deputy, Andrew G. McCabe — were the subject of the same kind of very unusual. and an invasive IRS audit.
It is not known whether the IRS investigated Mr. Strzok or Ms. Page. But Mr. Strzok has become a subject in the investigation by special counsel John Durham into how the FBI investigated Mr. Trump’s campaign. Neither Mr. Strzok nor Ms. Page has been charged in connection with that investigation, which former law enforcement officers and Democrats have criticized as an effort to fulfill Mr. Trump’s vendetta against the bureau. Mr Strzok is also suing the department for wrongful dismissal.
Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page exchanged text messages that were critical of Mr. Trump and were later released by Rod J. Rosenstein, then the deputy attorney general under Mr. Trump, as he faced heavy criticism from Republicans on Capitol Hill. who were trying to find ways to undermine him.
Mr Kelly’s sworn statements are similar to those he made to The New York Times in November, in which he said Mr Trump had told him he wanted some of his perceived political enemies to be investigated by the IRS, including. Mr. Comey, Mr. McCabe, Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page.
Mr. Kelly told The Times last year that Mr. Trump’s demands were part of a broader pattern of attempts to use the Justice Department and his authority as president against people who criticized him, including seeking to revoke the security clearances of former chief spies
In the sworn statement, Mr. Kelly said that Mr. Trump discussed revoking the security clearances of Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page, although Mr. Kelly did not act on the idea. Mr Kelly said his notes showed Mr Trump discussed the two’s investigations on February 21, 2018.
“I didn’t note every instance in which then-President Trump made a comment about Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page,” Mr. Kelly said. “President Trump has generally disapproved of note-taking in meetings. He expressed concern that the notes might later be used against him.”
Mr. Kelly said he never took any steps to follow Mr. Trump’s wishes to investigate his enemies.
Mr. Trump said he knew nothing about the audits of Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe and their wives. The IRS inspector general found last year that Mr. Comey and Mr. McCabe were randomly selected for the audits, although the inspector general’s report acknowledged some deviations from the IRS’s strict rules for random selection when the agency conducted final choices of the performance that would be. to be reviewed.
Mr. Kelly told The Times last year that Mr. Trump had at times discussed using the IRS and the Justice Department to target others in addition to Mr. Comey, Mr. McCabe, Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page.
They included, Mr. Kelly said, former CIA director John O. Brennan; Hillary Clinton; and Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and the owner of The Washington Post, whose coverage has often angered Mr. Trump.