WASHINGTON (CBSNewYork/CBS News) -- President Donald Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller back in June, but eventually backed down in a confrontation with the White House lawyer, the New York Times reported Thursday evening.
Citing four sources who were told about the incident, the Times reported Mueller ended up keeping his job at the helm of the Russia probe because White House counsel Don McGahn refused to comply with Trump's request that he order the Justice Department to fire Mueller.
McGahn reportedly threatened to quit, at which point the president backed off.
McGahn reportedly told senior White House officials that firing Mueller would be "catastrophic" for Trump's presidency, and he predicted, according to the Times, that Mr. Trump would never follow through on the order on his own.
This is the first report of the president attempting to fire Mueller. According to the Times, Mueller found out about the incident over the last few months as his team of investigators interviewed current and former White House officials.
Two sources told the Times that last summer the president had been making the case that Mueller had conflicts of interest that should have made him ineligible to lead the probe. Those supposed conflicts included a dispute over Trump National Golf Club fees, his work for a law firm that had represented Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner and the fact that Mueller had been interviewed for another stint as FBI director the day before he was named special counsel.
Trump told reporters in December that he had no plans to fire Mueller.
Investigators have been exploring whether Trump obstructed justice. The president told reporters Wednesday night that he was "looking forward" to being interviewed by Mueller in the investigation into Russian election meddling and any ties to Trump associates.
"I would do it under it under oath," and "I would love to do that as soon as possible," the president said. He said that he expects an interview to take place in the next two to three weeks, pending his attorney's approval. Still under discussion is whether the interview can be written questions, as opposed to in-person questioning.
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, claiming there was "no collusion" between members of his presidential campaign and Russia.
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