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Priebus says he "never felt" the president would fire Mueller

President Trump's first White House chief of staff says he never felt the president wanted to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Reince Priebus said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press" that Mr. Trump was very clear about his concerns over what he saw as Mueller's possible conflicts of interest. 

"I never felt, of all the things that we went through in the West Wing, I never felt that the president was going to fire the special counsel," he told NBC's Chuck Todd on Sunday.

He added, "I think it was very clear by the president's own words that he was concerned about the conflicts of interest that he felt that the special counsel had. And he made that very clear."

The New York Times reported that Mr. Trump ordered the firing of Mueller in June 2017 but eventually backed down after White House Counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign rather than tell the Justice Department to dismiss Mueller. However, sources directly involved in the deliberations told CBS News chief White House correspondent Major Garrett that McGahn's threat was not a direct response to an order by Mr. Trump to dismiss Mueller.  

McGahn's threat to quit was not communicated directly to Mr. Trump, but adjudicated by senior staff, principally Priebus and then-chief strategist Steve Bannon, according to sources familiar with the matter.

Garrett reports that while Mr. Trump talked about firing Mueller, he never issued a direct order to do so in written form, though he did say he favored this action in the presence of senior staff.

Mr. Trump has since refuted the claims of his intentions to fire Mueller as "fake news."

"Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories," he told reporters at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland earlier this month. 

Priebus told NBC he never heard "the idea or the concept" that Mueller needed to be fired. He says he'd know the difference "between a Level 10 situation" and "what was reality."

"Perhaps someone interpreted that to mean something else. But I know the difference between fire that person, why isn't that person gone, to what I read in that New York Times' piece," he said. "So when I read that I'm just telling you I didn't feel that when I was there."

Priebus added the Times report "wasn't reality" and that he "never felt that there was some sort of collusion" going on in the West Wing.

"I never felt that. And if there was ever anything at all that caused me any concern I would go to the White House Counsel's office, we would talk about it and it would get resolved," he said.

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