The president ordered Mueller fired last June, but White House counsel Don McGahn defied him.
President Trump ordered the firing of Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating the Russia scandal, last June. But top White House lawyer Don McGahn said he’d quit rather than carry it out — and Trump backed down, according to a blockbuster story by the New York Times’s Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman.
Though it was known at the time that the president was thinking of firing Mueller, this is the first report that Trump actually gave the order — and that, remarkably, one of his own staffers defied him and prevented his wishes from being carried out.
The news provides us yet another example of President Trump’s attempts to interfere with ongoing investigations — a pattern of behavior that has put him under scrutiny for potential obstruction of justice.
But the firing order also represents the road not taken for the Trump presidency. If McGahn had carried it out — or if Trump had refused to back down until he found someone who would — an enormous political controversy reminiscent of President Richard Nixon’s “Saturday Night Massacre” likely would have ensued, and could well have swallowed up the rest of Trump’s first year in office.
That’s what McGahn apparently feared: Schmidt and Haberman write that he told other top White House officials that the firing would “have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency.” And eventually, his warnings prevailed.
About seven months have passed since then, during which Mueller and his team have remained in place. They’ve indicted two Trump associates, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, for alleged crimes unrelated to Trump or the campaign. And they’ve turned two others, George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn, into cooperating witnesses via plea deals.
Now Mueller’s team is Read More Here