Shortly after firing former FBI director James Comey, the Justice Department appointed a special counsel to investigate Russian involvement with the 2016 election and the Trump campaign. But according to The New York Times, Trump reportedly tried to have Robert Mueller fired back in June, which means he attempted to meddle with the investigation. It’s pretty huge news, especially since Comey alleges that he was fired for not giving up on the Justice Department’s investigation. Of course, Mueller is still leading the investigation, so Trump didn’t succeed, but it still matters in a big way.
The Trump administration was on the offensive on Friday morning trying to squash the report. Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci, for example, called the newspaper “irrelevant.” Other officials were also making the rounds to label the report “fake news,” including the president, who commented from the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
According to four West Wing officials who spoke to the Times anonymously, Trump made a three-pronged case for Mueller’s dismissal, all of which spoke to Trump’s fears that Mueller wouldn’t be impartial, which is the whole point of a special counsel in the first place. First, he said that Mueller had canceled his membership at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia a few years ago because of the membership fees. He also said that Mueller was interviewing for the vacant FBI director position just before he took on the investigation and that Mueller had once worked at a law firm that represented Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. They were sort of grasping at straws (which seems to be running theme with this administration).
Trump asked the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, to ask the Justice Department to find someone else, but McGahn said that he would resign before carrying out the order. McGahn, who was the top lawyer for Trump’s campaign, said that he was afraid that firing Mueller would make the administration look bad and only lead to more questions, according to the New York Times report, which means that he wasn’t worried so much about the ethics of firing the special counsel, but rather protecting Trump’s image and his own.
In addition to that, it shows that Trump’s aides either lied to the press over the summer when asked if the president was going to fire Mueller or they didn’t know — neither of which is a good look for the president. Some experts think that if these reports are true, they could bring a case against Trump that says he obstructed justice — a felony offense — which could be an impeachable offense. Things may have just become a lot more difficult for the Trump administration, so stay tuned.