Trump Reportedly Ordered Firing Robert Mueller In June 2017
NEW YORK - President Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller in June 2017 but eventually backed down in a confrontation with the White House lawyer, the New York Times reported Thursday evening.
Citing four sources who were told about the incident, the Times reports Mueller ended up keeping his job at the helm of the Russia probe because White House counsel Don McGahn refused to comply with Mr. Trump's request that he order the Justice Department to fire Mueller. McGahn reportedly threatened to quit, at which point the president backed off.
McGahn reportedly told senior White House officials that firing Mueller would be "catastrophic" for Mr. Trump's presidency, and he predicted, according to the Times, that Mr. Trump would never follow through on the order on his own.
This is the first report of the president attempting to fire Mueller. According to the Times, Mueller found out about the incident over the last few months as his team of investigators interviewed current and former White House officials.
CBS News' Major Garrett confirmed that Mr. Trump raised issues with Mueller's possible conflicts of interest with senior White House staff in the month of June 2017. The Times cited two sources that said that last summer, the president had been making the case that Mueller had conflicts of interest that should have made him ineligible to lead the probe. Those supposed conflicts included a dispute over Trump National Golf Club fees, his work for a law firm that had represented Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and the fact that Mueller had been interviewed for another stint as FBI director the day before he was named special counsel. Garrett reports that another issue that was discussed was Mueller's friendship with Comey.
During that period last year, Garrett reports, Mr. Trump's inner circle argued against any thought by the president that he could or should do anything about Mueller. Those voices have been reinforced by additions to Trump's legal team who for months have successfully steered the president away from any notion of firing Mueller. These sources told Garrett that Mr. Trump has no intention of doing anything about Mueller, and they suggested that his comments Thursday about being willing to and looking forward to an interview underscore that.
The report comes as Mr. Trump is in Davos, Switzerland, with other global leaders for the World Economic Forum. The story broke in the middle of the night in Davos.
The special counsel's office declined to comment on the Times' report.