Russia report tells how angry Trump wanted Mueller fired
Updated 12:33, 19-Apr-2019
CGTN
01:18

Fearing that his presidency was doomed, an angry Donald Trump pushed for Robert Mueller to be fired before he could deepen his probe into Russian election meddling, the special counsel's long-awaited report said Thursday.

The more than 400-page document made public in redacted form by the Justice Department, detailed how Trump told his then White House counsel, Don McGahn, to tell the acting attorney general that Mueller "must be removed" - something McGahn refused to do.

It also revealed that Trump's staff and associates frequently ignored the president - disregarding his orders and hoping he wouldn't ask again.

The report - which landed as the United States dives into the ferment of a bitter presidential campaign - supports Trump's repeated assertions that he never colluded with Russian intelligence efforts to tilt the 2016 election in his favor.

U.S. President Donald Trump's twitter screenshot. /CGTN Photo

U.S. President Donald Trump's twitter screenshot. /CGTN Photo

"As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION - NO OBSTRUCTION!" the president tweeted as he declared a political victory.

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Trump added later at a White House function that he was "having a good day," although he departed for his weekend retreat in Florida without commenting further.

Gain an advantage 

The report emphasized that, contrary to the Republican president's claim, he had not been cleared of obstruction of justice.

And while finding that no Americans took part in the Russian meddling, Mueller determined that Trump was happy enough to gain an advantage from the dirty tricks.

This included the release by WikiLeaks of emails stolen by Russian agents from the team of Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

In this screenshot taken from the U.S. Department of Justice website, a redacted page from the Mueller Report is seen on April 18, 2019. /AFP Photo

In this screenshot taken from the U.S. Department of Justice website, a redacted page from the Mueller Report is seen on April 18, 2019. /AFP Photo

"The campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts," the report said.

Message to Sessions

Trump frequently attempted to use staff and associates to deliver messages. But frequently, his attempts to send messages via a third party were ignored.

On June 19, 2017, Trump met in the Oval Office with his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. Trump told Lewandowski to deliver a message to the former Attorney General Jeff Sessions that he wanted the Mueller investigation limited to just potential interference in future elections.

Lewandowski told Trump he would handle it, but instead, he asked White House official Rick Dearborn to deliver the message.

"(Dearborn) recalled later telling Lewandowski that he had handled the situation, but he did not actually follow through with delivering the message to Sessions," Mueller wrote.

'Part of the team'

On February 14, 2017, Trump had lunch with then-New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. During the lunch, the president asked Christie if he could deliver a message to then-FBI Director James Comey.

Trump wanted Christie to tell Comey that the president "really like(s) him. Tell him he's part of the team," the governor later told Mueller.

A month later, Trump fired Comey.

"Christie had no intention of complying with the president's request that he contact Comey," Mueller wrote. "He thought the president's request was ‘nonsensical' and Christie did not want to put Comey in the position of having to receive such a phone call. Christie thought it would have been uncomfortable to pass on that message."

'This is the end of my presidency

After Trump fired Comey, Mueller was appointed as an independent prosecutor to handle the highly sensitive probe.

"The president slumped back in his chair and said: 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm fucked'," the Mueller report said.

People walk by the ABC news screen in Times Square on April 18, 2019, in New York City, U.S. / AFP Photo

People walk by the ABC news screen in Times Square on April 18, 2019, in New York City, U.S. / AFP Photo

Top Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway rejected that portrayal, telling reporters: "That was not the reaction of the president that day."

Firing Mueller

Trump called White House Chief Counsel Don McGahn twice and told him to tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein that Mueller should be removed.

"Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel," McGahn recalled Trump telling him.

But McGahn didn't do it.

"To end the conversation with the President, McGahn left the President with the impression that McGahn would call Rosenstein," Mueller wrote in his report. "McGahn recalled that he had already said no to the President's request and he was worn down, so he just wanted to get off the phone."

'Uncomfortable with the task'

Long before Sessions resigned, Trump began searching for a new attorney general.

Television crew go over the Mueller Report outside the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC, U.S., on April 18, 2019. /AFP Photo

Television crew go over the Mueller Report outside the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, DC, U.S., on April 18, 2019. /AFP Photo

In July 2017, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand came to Trump's attention, and he asked the then White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to contact Brand to see if she was interested in becoming attorney general.

"Later, the president asked Porter a few times in passing whether he had spoken to Brand, but Porter did not reach out to her because he was uncomfortable with the task," Mueller wrote.

Porter ignored the president because he was concerned the inquiry was an attempt by Trump to fire Mueller, the special counsel's office surmised.

"Porter did not contact Brand because he was sensitive to the implications of that action and did not want to be involved in a chain of events associated with an effort to end the investigation or fire the Special Counsel," the report said.

(With inputs from Reuters, AFP)