President Donald Trump has responded to a New York Times report claiming that he ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading a widening investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 election, in June 2017.
“Fake news,” the President said, using his preferred nomenclature for various national media outlets. “Typical New York Times. Fake stories.”
Trump spoke to media only briefly as they gathered outside the World Economic Forum conference hall in Davos, Switzerland, reports Politico. He did not address specific elements of the New York Times report or present anything contrary to the Times’ reporting.
Citing “four people told of the matter,” The New York Times reported this week that White House Counsel Donald F. McGahn II offered to resign instead of carrying the order to the Department of Justice last summer. After McGahn refused the command, Trump reportedly backed away from the plan.
While President Donald Trump argued that Mueller could not lead an impartial investigation, McGahn disagreed — reportedly telling other senior White House officials that firing Mueller would be “catastrophic,” particularly as Mueller investigated possible obstruction of justice. He also reportedly told others in the White House that he did not believe Trump would fire Mueller unilaterally.
Trump also reportedly discussed the dismissal of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has the power to fire Special Counsel Mueller in the wake of the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. In December, Rosenstein told the House Judiciary Committee that he saw “no good cause” to fire Mueller.
McGahn was also concerned that firing Mueller would only intensify questions about obstruction of justice, especially in the wake of the then-recent recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the even more recent Senate testimony of James Comey. Comey testified that Trump had asked him for “loyalty” and said the President had asked him to “let go” an investigation into former White House national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Mueller reportedly learned of the attempted firing in recent months, according to the New York Times.