President Trump on Friday denied reports that he ordered the firing of Special Counsel Robert Mueller in June and only backed down after his White House counsel refused to carry out the instruction and threatened to resign.
Trump, who is in Davos for the World Economic Forum, was asked directly about The New York Times’ story and said it was “fake news, folks, fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories.”
The Times’ report said that White House lawyer Don McGahn said he would not deliver the order to the Justice Department, according to The Times, which cites four people familiar with the request by the president.
Trump argued at the time that Mueller could not be fair because of a dispute over golf club fees that he said Mueller owed at a Trump golf club in Sterling, Va, the report said. The president also believed Mueller he had a conflict of interest because he worked for the same law firm that was representing Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.
A Fox News source said that then-White House chief of staff Reince Priebus and chief strategist Steven Bannon believed last summer that Trump would fire Mueller and were very worried about the political fallout.
“They said, ‘This is going to blow up,” the source said.
The report comes as Mueller moves ever closer to interviewing Trump himself. The president said Wednesday that he would gladly testify under oath — although a White House official quickly said afterward that Trump did not mean he was volunteering to testify.
Fox News’ Kristen Brown, Edmund DeMarche, Ed Henry and The Associated Press contributed to this report