On Thursday night, The New York Times reported that President Trump tried to have Special Counsel Robert Mueller fired last June, soon after he was appointed to investigate the Trump campaign and Russian election interference. Other news organizations, including The Washington Post and, memorably, Fox News, corroborated the report. On Friday, Trump dismissed it, telling reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, that the report is “fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories.”
Trump also said there was a “tremendous crowd” at Davos, “like they’ve never seen before,” suggesting this was due to his debut at the World Economic Forum.
According to the reports, Trump was serious about having Mueller fired, egged on by his first legal team and advisers who warned that Mueller would dig into his finances. Reince Priebus and Stephen Bannon, Trump’s chief of staff and chief strategist at the time, respectively, were opposed to the idea, and White House Counsel Don McGahn’s threat to quit if Trump followed through is what convinced Trump to back down and shift to starting to cast doubts on the fairness of Mueller and his team.
Trump had planned to cite Mueller’s perceived conflicts of interest, including his employment at a law firm that also represented Jared Kushner and Mueller’s resignation from a Trump golf club in Virginia in 2011 after a billing dispute. “The dispute was hardly a dispute at all,” The Washington Post reports. “According to a person familiar with the matter, Mueller had sent a letter requesting a dues refund in accordance with normal club practice and never heard back.”