President Donald Trump last summer attempted to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the New York Times reported Thursday, but the President backed off after White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit over the move.
The New York Times report is based on four people told of the matter, and it comes after Mueller’s team conducted a series of interviews suggesting that the special counsel was examining possible obstruction of justice allegations against Trump.
According to the report, Trump’s personal lawyer Marc E. Kasowitz led the charge into examining possible conflict of interests issues with Mueller conducting the investigation. Trump, in his desire to dismiss Mueller, cited three potential conflicts, according to the Times: Mueller’s cancelation of his membership at one of Trump’s golf courses in 2011 after a disagreement about fees; the representation of Jared Kushner by Mueller’s former private law firm; and that the President interviewed Mueller for the position of FBI director after he fired Jim Comey.
Faced with Trump’s order to instruct the Justice Department to terminate the special counsel, McGahn told the President he would resign instead and argued that firing Mueller would deal a serious blow to Trump’s presidency, according to the Times.
The addition of Ty Cobb to the President’s legal team — where he is in charge of the White House’s response to Mueller’s probe — in July helped to steer Trump away from his impulses to fire the special counsel, the New York Times reported. Cobb has argued that the White House has nothing to hide, and that cooperation with Mueller would help to wrap up the probe quickly.
In a statement for Thursday’s Times’ report, Cobb said that, “We decline to comment out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process.”