Mueller Report Alleges Trump Wanted to Fire Mueller After Special Counsel Was Appointed

Zachary Stieber
By Zachary Stieber
April 18, 2019Politics
Mueller Report Alleges Trump Wanted to Fire Mueller After Special Counsel Was Appointed
Special Counsel Robert Mueller (L) (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images); President Donald Trump (R). (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)

President Donald Trump wanted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller after Mueller was appointed to run the investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election and possible collusion with Trump’s campaign, according to Mueller’s report.

The report was published with redactions on April 18.

Then-Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller on May 17, 2017. According to Mueller, the president learned of the appointment from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who had recused himself from the probe, after Sessions received a phone call from Rosenstein informing him of the appointment.

“According to notes written by [Jody] Hunt, when Sessions told the president that a special counsel had been appointed, the president slumped back in his chair and said ‘Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I’m [expletive],'” Mueller wrote.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions speaks during a news conference in Washington on Oct. 16, 2018. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Trump became angry and lambasted Sessions for recusing himself from the probe, alleging that Sessions had “let [him] down.”

According to Sessions, Trump told him “You were supposed to protect me,” or words to that effect.

Trump then returned to Mueller’s appointment.

“Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency. It takes years and years and I won’t be able to do anything. This is the worst thing that ever happened to me,” Trump said, according to Hunt and Sessions.

The next morning, Trump took to Twitter to say: “This is the greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!”

NTD Photo
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks in the State Dining Room at the White House in Washington on Feb. 21, 2018. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Trump told Sessions that he should resign and Sessions agreed and departed the Oval Office. Former communications employee Hope Hicks said that she saw the president shortly after and described him as being extremely upset, to the degree she’d only seen one other time, when the Access Hollywood tape came out during the campaign.

The next day, Sessions returned to the office and submitted his letter. Trump put the letter in his pocket and asked Sessions several times if he wanted to keep the job, and Sessions said he did. The president then said he wanted Sessions to stay, according to Hunt and Sessions. Trump later returned the letter to Sessions with a notation saying, “not accepted.”

Trump, over the next several days, repeatedly told advisors that Mueller had conflicts of interest.

On June 12, Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of Newsmax Media and described as a longtime friend of Trump, met at the White House with Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon. He told Mueller’s team that Priebus and Bannon told him that Trump was strongly considering firing Mueller. Ruddy said later that day during a television interview that Trump was “considering perhaps terminating the special counsel” based on the conflicts of interest. Ruddy later said something similar to another outlet.

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller
Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller waits for the beginning of a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, on Jun. 19, 2013. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the next day that while Trump “has every right to” fire Mueller, “he has no intention to do so.”

Rosenstein appeared before Congress on June 13 and said he saw no evidence of good cause to terminate Mueller while Trump’s general counsel contacted Mueller’s office the same day and raised concerns about the conflicts of interest, noting that Mueller had a personal relationship with James Comey, the FBI director whom Trump had fired, in addition to other possible conflicts.

Mueller’s office frequently cited the New York Times and the Washington Post, two of the many news outlets that have become openly anti-Trump and printed a slew of misleading stories surrounding the Russia investigation and Trump himself. Some of the stories the special counsel cited relied on anonymous sources who were quoted with no indication of what capacity they were serving or had served in, and were articles that both outlets have had to retract or issue corrections for.

On June 15, Trump took to Twitter again to criticize the obstruction investigation, saying: “They made up a phony collusion with the Russians story, found zero proof, so now they go for obstruction of justice on the phony story. Nice.”

Mueller’s team said it was unable to establish evidence of conspiracy or cooperation between Trump’s campaign and Russians despite the probe lasting for over two years and costing over $30 million. The team also said it was unable to clearly establish obstruction.

White House Counsel Don McGahn speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, on Feb. 22, 2018. (REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque)
White House Counsel Don McGahn speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, on Feb. 22, 2018. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

According to Trump’s former White House counsel Don McGahn, the president called him on June 17 and directed him to have Mueller removed. He had called McGahn before to note Mueller’s conflicts of interest. McGahn said that he told Trump he would see what he could do about calling Rosenstein, but said he was perturbed and didn’t intend to act on the request.

McGahn said that he had told Trump that the counsel’s office shouldn’t be involved in any effort to press the Department of Justice on the conflicts of interest.

“McGahn considered the president’s request to be an inflection point and he wanted to hit the brakes,” Mueller wrote.

Trump called McGahn again to ask the counsel to call Rosenstein, saying something like, “Call Rod, tell him that Mueller has conflicts and can’t be the Special Counsel.”

According to McGahn, Trump also said “Mueller has to go” and “Call me back when you do it.”

NTD Photo
President Donald Trump congratulates White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus during a swearing-in ceremony for senior staff at the White House in Washington, on Jan. 22, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

McGahn said that he was worn down so he left the president with the impression that he would call Rosenstein but still did not plan to do so. He said that if Trump called again, he vowed to himself that he would resign. He informed his chief of staff, Annie Donaldson, of his decision. Donaldson said she was prepared to resign along with her boss.

McGahn said that he ultimately returned to work after Priebus and Bannon urged him not to quit and he didn’t receive another phone call. When Trump saw him next, he did not ask whether McGahn had called Rosenstein.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie also told the special counsel’s team that around the same time Trump called him and asked for his thoughts on firing Mueller. Christie advised against it.

Trump has publicly disputed accounts that said he directed McGahn to get Mueller fired. The special counsel, though, said that the former counsel “is a credible witness with no motive to lie or exaggerate given the position he held in the White House.”

Mueller’s team argued that Trump’s actions indicated attempts at obstruction but said they could not clearly establish obstruction so they left the determination of obstruction of that and nine other episodes up to Attorney General William Barr and Rosenstein, who decided that the episodes did not constitute obstruction.

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