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Donald Trump denies report he wanted Robert Mueller fired but backed off

Trump ordered firing special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation Robert Muller, backed off after WH counsel Donald McGahn offered to quit instead

Trump Denies Ordering Firing Robert Muller

Agencies  |  Washington 

US President Donald Trump waves to journalists as he arrives during the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. (Photo: AP/PTI)

US President Donald Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, in last June but ultimately backed down after his White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive, a media report said.

However, when questioned about the same in Davos on Friday, US President Donald Trump denied that he had ordered Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired last June, calling it "fake news".

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Trump backed down from his order after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than follow his directive, citing four people told of the matter.

"Fake news, folks, fake news," Trump told reporters in Davos, when asked about the report.

After receiving the President's order to fire Mueller, White House counsel Donald McGahn refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead.

McGahn told senior White House officials that firing Mueller would have a "catastrophic effect" on Trump's presidency. He also told officials that Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The President then backed off.

McGahn, a longtime Republican campaign finance lawyer in Washington who served on the Federal Election Commission, was the top lawyer on Trump's campaign. He has been involved in nearly every key decision the President has made -- like the firing of former FBI Director James Comey - that was being scrutinized by Mueller.

The White House counsel was also concerned that firing Mueller would incite more questions about whether Trump campaign was trying to obstruct the investigation into Russian meddling in 2016 presidential elections, CNN reported.

The President and Russia have repeatedly denied the accusation.

Mueller, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director, was appointed special counsel last May to look into the collusion allegations.

The special counsel learned of his near-dismissal in recent months, while his team interviewed past and present White House officials, the Times reported.

"We decline to comment out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process," White House lawyer Ty Cobb said.

Two people told the Times that Trump expressed concern over three possible conflicts of interest, including a dispute Mueller had involving Trump National Golf Club, the law firm Mueller previously had worked at acted for President's son-in-law Jared Kushner and the fact that Mueller had recently been interviewed to head the FBI.

The discussion over Mueller's potential conflicts of interest in June 2017 arose following reports that Mueller was looking into a possible obstruction of justice case.

Reacting to the Times' story, Democratic Senator Mark Warner on the Senate Intelligence Committee said: "Firing the special counsel is a red line that the President cannot cross."

Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci dismissed the report on Thursday, calling it "totally irrelevant".

On Wednesday, Trump said he was "looking forward" to being interviewed by Mueller in the investigation into the alleged Russian meddling. "I would do it under oath," he said.



(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Fri, January 26 2018. 16:44 IST