President Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last year, relenting only when White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign in protest. Robert Mueller learned about the incident recently as members of his investigative team interviewed current and former White House officials, who told them of the incident.
The president considered firing Mueller in June, when reports began to circulate that Mueller was looking into whether the president was obstructing justice with regards to the Russia investigation. The president argued that Mueller had several conflicts of interest that disqualify him from being a fair arbiter of the president’s case.
One of the points of contention stems from a dispute that occurred years ago about fees at the Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia, that caused Mueller, then the FBI Director, to resign his membership. A spokesman for Mueller said no such dispute existed when Mueller left the club.
But after receiving an order from the president to fire Mueller, Don McGahn refused to ask the Justice Department to carry the order out, saying he would resign instead. McGahn disagreed with the president’s decision. He told White House officials that firing Mueller would have devastating effects on Trump’s White House. McGahn also apparently expressed skepticism that Trump would follow through with the firing on his own. The president reportedly backed down at that point.
President Trump also apparently considered firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, and put the Justice Department’s number three official, Rachel Brand, in charge of the Mueller investigation. It was Rosenstein who originally appointed Mueller in May 2017.