President Donald Trump ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller last summer, but he backed down after the White House counsel threatened the resign, the New York Times and other media reported on Thursday.
The newspaper, citing four sources who were told about the matter, said Mueller learned about the attempted firing in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former administration officials as part of his inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.
Trump has long criticized Mueller, who was appointed to investigate Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible links to Trump’s presidential campaign. Mueller was appointed in the aftermath of Trump’s sudden firing of FBI Director James Comey.
The attempted firing of Mueller is said to have happened in June when there were unconfirmed reports that the president was considering to try to fire Mueller. Chris Ruddy, a friend of Trump, told PBS NewsHour during an interview on June 12 that Trump was considering to fire the special counsel.
Trump and his aides have long denied that firing Mueller was ever being considered. “I haven’t given it any thought. I mean, I’ve been reading about it from you people (the press),” the president said in August, days after his aide Kellyanne Conway claimed that Trump had not even discussed firing Mueller.
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