President Donald Trump actively attempted to fire Robert Mueller, the special counsel in charge of the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, last June, the New York Times reported Thursday.
A few weeks after Mueller was hired and the investigation began expanding to include a possible obstruction of justice case against the president, Trump ordered White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller, four sources with knowledge of the situation told the Times. The president reportedly believed Mueller faced several conflicts of interest, including the fact that Mueller had resigned his membership at a Trump golf club in Virginia over a fee disagreement.
But McGahn refused, and threatened to resign if Trump went through with it, the Times reports, because McGahn reportedly believed Trump’s order would potentially ruin his presidency.
As the Mueller’s probe has zeroed in on top White House officials, speculation over whether the special counsel will keep his job has intensified. And Trump’s attitude toward the investigation keeps shifting. In July, Trump said he would never have hired Jeff Sessions as attorney general if he knew that Sessions would recuse himself from the investigation (a move that cleared the path for Mueller to take over), and also declared that if Mueller looked into his family’s finances, it would be “a violation.”
Yet in June, purportedly around the time Trump sought to fire Mueller, Trump said he’d be “100 percent” willing to speaking with Mueller. Trump reiterated his willingness — almost eagerness — to speak with Mueller Wednesday, when he held an impromptu press conference in his chief of staff’s doorway and claimed that he’s actually “looking forward” to talking with Mueller.
In a statement to the Times on its report, Ty Cobb, the president’s lawyer, said, “We decline to comment out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process.”