The NY Times reporting tonight that Donald Trump actually did order Robert Mueller be fired way back last June, but White House counsel Don McGahn said flat out that he would resign rather than deliver Trump's message.
President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.
The West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel. Mr. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials in his inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.
Amid the first wave of news media reports that Mr. Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation, two of the people said.
First, he claimed that a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Va., had prompted Mr. Mueller, the F.B.I. director at the time, to resign his membership. The president also said Mr. Mueller could not be impartial because he had most recently worked for the law firm that previously represented the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Finally, the president said, Mr. Mueller had been interviewed to return as the F.B.I. director the day before he was appointed special counsel in May.
After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to be identified discussing a continuing investigation.
Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case. He also told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency and would incite more questions about whether the White House was trying to obstruct the Russia investigation. Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.
“We decline to comment out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process,” Ty Cobb, the president’s lawyer who manages the White House’s relationship with Mr. Mueller’s office, said in a statement.
This is pretty much the realm of "holy crap" territory. Pretty much everything Trump has said about awaiting Mueller's swift conclusion of the investigation since July has been a lie. Trump's reasoning for firing Mueller were all nonsense, and his lawyer agreed to the point where he would not carry out the President's direct order.
Don McGahn may have at least saved the Mueller investigation. It would have been over in six weeks otherwise. But the leak of this story is a major, major problem for Trump. June was when the investigation turned to Trump's obstruction of justice involving the Comey firing. In July Trump gave his interview to the NY Times without his lawyers present and said that he would consider firing Mueller.
He had already tried to fire Mueller when he gave that interview, guys. And lets remember, he did fire James Comey, and he wanted to fire FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, too.
There's also a 100% chance that Mueller knew Trump tried to fire him, a knew some time ago.
Trump is guilty as sin, guys.
Because it gets worse.
Another option that Mr. Trump considered in discussions with his advisers was dismissing the deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, and elevating the department’s No. 3 official, Rachel Brand, to oversee Mr. Mueller. Mr. Rosenstein has overseen the investigation since March, when Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself.
Mr. Trump has significantly ratcheted back his criticisms of Mr. Mueller since he hired Mr. Cobb in July. A veteran of several high-profile Washington controversies, Mr. Cobb has known Mr. Mueller for decades, dating to their early careers in the Justice Department.
He advised Mr. Trump that he had nothing to gain from combat with Mr. Mueller, a highly respected former prosecutor and F.B.I. director who has subpoena power as special counsel. Since Mr. Cobb’s arrival, the White House has operated on the premise that the quickest way to clear the cloud of suspicion was to cooperate with Mr. Mueller, not to fight him.
Nonetheless, Mr. Trump has wavered for months about whether he wants to fire Mr. Mueller, whose job security is an omnipresent concern among the president’s legal team and close aides. The president’s lawyers, including Mr. Cobb, have tried to keep Mr. Trump calm by assuring him for months, amid new revelations about the inquiry, that it is close to ending.
It's not close to ending. And he's still thinking about firing Mueller because his legal team keeps having to talk him down, something that the notoriously thin-skinned Trump has to be screaming about in Davos this weekend.