The Slatest

Trump Reportedly Tried to Fire Mueller Again in December Before Being Talked Down by Aides

President Trump at the White House, on April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC.
President Trump at the White House, on April 10, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump, enraged by reports of a new round of subpoenas from the Robert Mueller investigation, instructed aides in December to fire the special counsel and shut down the Russia investigation, the New York Times reported Tuesday. Previously, the only known attempt to sack Mueller was in June of last year, but it was derailed when White House counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign instead of carrying out the presidential directive.

Trump aides were ultimately able to talk the president down from firing Mueller in December after conferring with Mueller’s team and determining the reporting that the subpoenas were targeting Trump and his family’s business dealings with Deutsche Bank was inaccurate, according to the Times. The incident showed Trump’s tendency to react negatively to the most personally and financially invasive aspects of the Mueller investigation, which he deems beyond the “red line” demarcating the special counsel’s remit, and his propensity to lash out against the investigation in response.

In both instances, Trump backed down from his initial instinct to get rid of Mueller, which would technically require Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to pull the trigger, since his office appointed Mueller as special counsel. The news that Trump has tried to relieve Mueller not once, but twice, before being talked out of it, shows the president appears to believe the fallout from such a move would be manageable, a view many of his advisers do not appear to share. Republicans in Congress, like Sen. Lindsey Graham, have warned Trump that firing Mueller would be the beginning of the end of his presidency. The news of Trump’s second attempt to end Mueller’s tenure is particularly relevant given the federal raid of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s office, house, and hotel room Monday in an apparent effort to gather more information about hush payments to former adult film star Stormy Daniels and payments to two other women. Trump responded testily, condemning the investigation, signaling another potentially turbulent period for the special counsel, where his longevity may again be tested.