Donald Trump reportedly sought to fire special counsel Robert Mueller but relented when the White House’s top attorney threatened to resign.
According to The New York Times, the President ordered Mr Mueller’s firing in June, saying he could not impartially oversee an investigation into whether the Russian government colluded with Mr Trump’s presidential campaign.
Mr Mueller was appointed special counsel and tasked to lead the probe in May.
White House counsel Donald McGahn reportedly pushed back against the order, refusing to have the Department of Justice dismiss Mr Mueller and threatening to quit rather than carry it out, the paper said.
The White House did not respond to The Independent’s request for comment.
For months, Mr Trump has rejected Mr Mueller’s probe as a baseless “witch hunt” aimed at discrediting his presidency. The revelation that he sought to dismiss Mr Mueller bolsters Democrats’ warnings that the President is willing to disregard limits on executive power by undermining an investigation of his own circle. Critics have warned that jettisoning Mr Mueller could lead to a constitutional crisis.
It was another high-profile dismissal — Mr Trump’s decision to nix FBI director James Comey — that led to Mr Mueller’s appointment. That decision, too, drew accusations of dangerous presidential overreach.
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The investigation led by Mr Mueller has already led to indictments against multiple Trump aides.
Former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos and former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI while former campaign chair Paul Manafort has pleaded not guilty to money laundering charges.
In recent weeks the investigation has drawn closer to Mr Trump himself, with Mr Mueller said to be exploring the departures from the administration of Mr Comey and Mr Flynn. The President said this week he was “looking forward” speak with Mr Mueller.
According to a document released by Mr Trump’s attorney John Dowd, more than 20 White House staffers have spoken to Mr Mueller’s team.