Boom! This is pretty big from the New York Times:
President Trump ordered the firing last June of Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, according to four people told of the matter, but ultimately backed down after the White House counsel threatened to resign rather than carry out the directive.
The West Wing confrontation marks the first time Mr. Trump is known to have tried to fire the special counsel. Mr. Mueller learned about the episode in recent months as his investigators interviewed current and former senior White House officials in his inquiry into whether the president obstructed justice.
Amid the first wave of news media reports that Mr. Mueller was examining a possible obstruction case, the president began to argue that Mr. Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation, two of the people said.
One of Trump’s reasons for wanting to ax Mueller—the fact that he interviewed for the FBI position the day before he was appointed special counsel. That must really stick in Trump’s craw—the idea that Mueller almost went to work for him but wound up investigating him instead. Also, someone seems a bit touchy on the obstruction front.
Now for a little reality check…
Under DOJ rules, the special counsel can *only* be removed for cause, defined in writing by supervising prosecutor (Rosenstein).
A presidential attempt to fire him without cause could be found unlawful – indeed a court might ultimately overrule it.
— Ari Melber (@AriMelber) January 26, 2018
Though the current revelation comes from different sourcing, rumors about Trump firing Mueller were swirling last June.
“I think he’s weighing that option,” Christopher Ruddy, the chief executive of Newsmax, a conservative website, told PBS’ “NewsHour” on Monday. “I think it’s pretty clear by what one of his lawyers said on television recently.”
“I personally think it would be a very significant mistake,” Ruddy added.
Ruddy’s mention of “one of his lawyers” appeared to be a reference to Jay Sekulow, a lawyer who appeared on ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday and implied that Trump was considering the idea.
So it seems Trump was indeed contemplating the removal of Mueller, but White House counsel Don McGahn clearly didn’t think Trump had proper cause. From the Times:
After receiving the president’s order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel, saying he would quit instead, the people said. […]
Mr. McGahn disagreed with the president’s case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump’s presidency. Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own. The president then backed off.
Thus, Mueller remains to this day and Trump has spent months on end grousing over the recusal the Jeff Sessions… because he ultimately wants a loyalist as Attorney General who will do what he wants. In the meantime, Trump’s lawyers are sweating it out.
Mr. Trump has wavered for months about whether he wants to fire Mr. Mueller, whose job security is an omnipresent concern among the president’s legal team and close aides. The president’s lawyers, including Mr. Cobb, have tried to keep Mr. Trump calm by assuring him for months, amid new revelations about the inquiry, that it is close to ending.