President Donald Trump ordered special counsel Robert Mueller to be fired last year but backed down after the White House’s top attorney threatened to resign, according to a New York Times report Thursday night.
The Times reported that Trump grew frustrated with Mueller’s investigation after it appeared to focus on potential obstruction of justice and ordered his firing in June, only to eventually back down.
Trump argued internally that Mueller had a series of conflicts of interest that prevented him from conducting a fair investigation, the Times reported.
According to the Times, Don McGahn, the White House counsel, threatened to resign if Trump ordered Mueller's firing and argued that removing him would be a disaster for Trump’s presidency.
In a statement to the Times, Ty Cobb, the White House attorney who is focused on the Russia investigation, said, “We decline to comment out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process.”
Mueller was appointed special counsel last year to lead an investigation into Russian election interference. His appointment came after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia investigation after previously unreported meetings with Sergey Kislyak, the then-Russian Ambassador to the U.S., surfaced.
Trump has said previously that he has no intention of firing Mueller. He has repeatedly criticized the Russia investigation and dismissed any talk of collusion.