5 things Trump's attempted firing of Robert Mueller teaches us

President Donald Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June, only to be talked out of doing...

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 10:31 AM
Updated: Jan 26, 2018 10:31 AM

President Donald Trump ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June, only to be talked out of doing so when White House general counsel Don McGahn threatened to quit rather than carry out the directive, The New York Times reported Thursday night.

That's a wow.

Especially because time and time again over the past year, Trump -- and his senior advisers -- have insisted that he had never, ever, never, not once considered anything like firing Mueller.

"I haven't given it any thought," Trump replied in August -- two months after he reportedly ordered Mueller fired --- to a question from a reporter as to whether he had considered firing the special counsel.

So, besides the fact that Trump -- contrary to his public assertions -- not only thought about firing Mueller but asked that it be done, what else does The New York Times story teach us (or remind us) about Trump?

1. Trump has a tin ear

Remember the timeline here. Trump fires then-FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. That same month -- May 17 to be exact -- Mueller is appointed as special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and tasked with overseeing the investigation into Russia's attempted meddling in the 2016 election and possible collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.

Within a month -- June 14 -- The Washington Post reports that Mueller's probe has expanded beyond the 2016 election to examine potential obstruction of justice in regard to Comey's firing.

It's right around that time that Trump ordered the firing of Mueller. McGahn objected because, according to the Times: "McGahn disagreed with the President's case and told senior White House officials that firing Mr. Mueller would have a catastrophic effect on Mr. Trump's presidency."

Which is, of course, 100% right. And yet, somehow, Trump, the self-proclaimed political genius of our time, wasn't able to grasp the effect that firing Mueller might have on his presidency.

2. Trump is paranoid

This isn't something we learned from the Times story, but something the story should remind us all.

The reasons that Trump believed Mueller should be fired, according to the Times, were: a) Mueller carried a grudge over membership fees at the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia. (Mueller left the club in 2011 but has denied there was any dispute over membership dues.) b) Mueller had worked most recently for the law firm that represented Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and c) Mueller had talked to Trump about returning as FBI director shortly before being named special counsel.

None of those three reasons are fireable offenses. The law firm and FBI job excuse are flimsy -- at best.

But it's the idea that Mueller, a man who spent 12 years as the head of the FBI, would somehow be biased against Trump for what may or may not even be a dispute over membership fees at a golf course really takes the cake. Mueller would risk his entire career and reputation solely to get back at Trump for golf dues?

On its face it's laughable. And yet, Trump believed it.

3. Trump can be talked down

There's a tendency to assume that once Trump makes his mind up about something -- or someone -- that's the final word. The Mueller episode suggests that's not true.

McGahn essentially called Trump's bluff on Mueller. As a lawyer, he thought it was a bad idea that would create many more problems than it would be worth. You want him fired, do it yourself, McGahn dared Trump. "Mr. McGahn also told White House officials that Mr. Trump would not follow through on the dismissal on his own," reads the Times report. "The President then backed off."

That's instructive. Trump, despite the fact that he had convinced himself -- on shaky evidence -- that Mueller deserved to be fired, wouldn't (or couldn't) pull the trigger on his own.

4. Trump's top aides have no real idea what's going on

That may seem harsh but, candidly, it's the best-case scenario to explain the fact that several of Trump's top aides repeatedly insisted over the past year -- including well after June 2017 -- that the President had never even considered firing Mueller.

"The President has not even discussed that," senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said in August 2017. "The President is not discussing firing Bob Mueller."

"As the White House has consistently said for months, there is no consideration of firing the special counsel," said Trump lawyer Ty Cobb in December -- a full six months after Trump reportedly nearly did.

How to reconcile these quotes with the Times reporting? Either Conway and Cobb (and others who said similar things) were lying or they just weren't looped in that Trump had, in fact, wanted to fire Mueller and only stopped when McGahn refused to do the dirty work.

5. Trump's lawyers are telling him the investigation is almost over to keep him from firing Mueller

The idea of getting rid of Mueller remains an active possibility in Trump's mind, according to the Times story. This paragraph, in particular, is jaw dropping:

"Mr. Trump has wavered for months about whether he wants to fire Mr. Mueller, whose job security is an omnipresent concern among the President's legal team and close aides. The President's lawyers, including Mr. Cobb, have tried to keep Mr. Trump calm by assuring him for months, amid new revelations about the inquiry, that it is close to ending."

We've known for a while now that Cobb (and others) have been assuring Trump that the Mueller investigation is winding down, with no real evidence to back up those claims.

Now we know why. Because by telling Trump that it will all be over soon, his lawyers keep his desire to fire Mueller at bay. Why fire someone and make yourself look guilty when that same person is about to declare you innocent, goes the thinking. Just a few more days/weeks/months and this will all be over so no need to do anything rash, the lawyers tell Trump -- and, in so doing, buy themselves more time to let Mueller do his job.

Huntsville
Clear
74° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 74°
Florence
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 71°
Fayetteville
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 75°
Decatur
Clear
72° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 72°
Scottsboro
Broken Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 56441

Reported Deaths: 1136
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson7012170
Mobile5061140
Montgomery4599112
Tuscaloosa274353
Madison25359
Marshall205012
Shelby176425
Lee164737
Morgan13975
Baldwin134111
Walker111332
Elmore107622
Etowah106914
Dallas10189
DeKalb10017
Franklin95016
Unassigned77728
Autauga71515
Russell7130
Chambers68530
Cullman6686
Limestone6653
Butler65529
Houston6417
Tallapoosa63069
Lauderdale6006
St. Clair5983
Calhoun5545
Colbert5286
Escambia5128
Lowndes49222
Pike4805
Jackson4422
Coffee4364
Covington43512
Talladega4177
Dale4061
Barbour4022
Bullock37810
Hale36323
Marengo36111
Chilton3452
Blount3311
Clarke3236
Wilcox3158
Marion30914
Winston3095
Sumter29713
Pickens2786
Randolph2759
Monroe2683
Perry2552
Conecuh2388
Bibb2271
Macon2229
Choctaw22012
Greene2009
Henry1573
Washington1529
Lawrence1460
Crenshaw1343
Cherokee1317
Geneva1010
Fayette901
Clay892
Lamar891
Coosa671
Cleburne481
Out of AL00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 65274

Reported Deaths: 749
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby14163224
Davidson13976146
Rutherford375539
Hamilton353538
Sumner204056
Williamson193916
Knox171710
Out of TN166012
Trousdale15105
Wilson126117
Putnam10817
Unassigned10772
Bradley10104
Robertson97313
Sevier9244
Montgomery8247
Tipton7177
Lake6960
Macon6467
Bledsoe6311
Bedford6309
Hamblen5084
Maury4993
Hardeman4444
Madison3842
Fayette3805
Rhea3500
Blount3483
Loudon3312
Dyer3023
McMinn29319
Cheatham2873
Dickson2820
Washington2760
Lawrence2506
Sullivan2485
Cumberland2294
Anderson2112
Gibson2031
Jefferson1931
Lauderdale1934
Smith1852
Warren1590
Greene1572
Monroe1566
Coffee1520
Cocke1460
Haywood1413
Hardin1407
Obion1273
Marshall1232
Wayne1230
Franklin1223
Giles1221
McNairy1171
Hickman1120
Carter1082
Marion1014
DeKalb990
Hawkins952
Lincoln950
White933
Roane880
Henderson830
Chester810
Overton791
Weakley791
Claiborne760
Campbell721
Grundy672
Crockett653
Unicoi600
Grainger590
Cannon580
Carroll571
Polk570
Henry540
Sequatchie520
Jackson500
Johnson490
Humphreys482
Perry430
Meigs400
Decatur350
Morgan341
Fentress290
Scott290
Union280
Stewart270
Clay230
Houston230
Moore230
Benton161
Hancock120
Lewis120
Van Buren90
Pickett80

 

 

Community Events