Transcript for NYT: Trump ordered White House lawyer to fire special counsel Robert Mueller last June
Friday night, and we begin with president trump reportedly ordering the special counsel Robert Mueller be fired. The white house counsel refusing to do this last June. President trump returning tonight from Davos, and serious questions await here at home about why he moved to fire Robert Mueller. The president denying the claim, but "The New York Times" breaking the story, and the outlets of "The Washington post" to Fox News to our team, confirming that the president did want Mueller out. ABC's Jonathan Karl leading us off. Reporter: Appearing before a gathering in Davos, Switzerland and most powerful, the president took credit for an American comeback. America is open for business, and we are competitive once again. Reporter: But his message was overshadowed by news back home. A report, first in "The New York Times," that last summer he had sought to fire special counsel Robert Mueller. Mr. President, did you seek to fire Robert Mueller? Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical "New York Times" fake stories. Reporter: A presidential denial, but a story confirmed by ABC news that the president sought to have Mueller dismissed in June, just one month after he was appointed to the job. So why didn't it happen? According to the "Times," white house counsel, don Mcgann refused to ask the justice department to carry out the president's wishes, even threatening to quit himself. The president's desire to push Mueller aside wasn't exactly a secret. At the time, Chris ruddy, a long-time friend of the president's, went public warning him not to do it. I think he's considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he's weighing that option. I, personally, think it would be a very significant mistake. Reporter: But a couple months later, trump denied even thinking about firing Mueller. I haven't given it any thought. Reporter: And some of the president's top aides denied it, too. He has not discussed firing Bob Mueller. Reporter: "The New York Times" says trump even had come with a rationale firing Mueller, a list of three alleged conflicts of interest, including the fact that Mueller had come to the white house the day before he was named special counsel to talk to the president about returning to his old job of FBI director. Over the summer, the president fumed about that in an interview. Mueller wanted the job. I said, "What the hell is this all about?" Talk about conflicts? But he was interviewing for the job. Reporter: Tonight, at the white house, the president's lawyers remain mum, leaving it to the president alone to deny the story. But "The New York Times" reports there's one person who's known about it for months, Robert Mueller, himself. So let's get to Jon Karl with us live from the white house, and Democrats in congress are pushing for legislation that would prevent the president from firing the special counsel, and this evening, we're learning that a leading Republican says he is open to it? Reporter: The judiciary chairman Republican chuck grassley did say that, and he said the president and everyone else ought to let Mueller do his job and get through this investigation. But while grassley said he is open to this bill or a bill protecting Mueller, he also said he is encourage that the president appears to be cooperating with the counsel. Jon Karl leading us off on a Friday night. Thank you. We have one more question on this. Let's get to Dan Abrams here with us. How significant is this? If it's determined that the purpose of it was to end the investigation, that could be a piece in a possible obstruction of justice case. Because remember, the intent is what matters there, but it's also important to remember how much of a bigger deal it would have been to fire Robert Mueller than to fire James Comey. James Comey is the head of the FBI, and effectively works for the president, but the special counsel is supposed to be independent. There is a specific process that has to occur before the special counsel could be fired, and it involves the attorney general and not the president, firing him. Didn't happen. This would have been much bigger than Comey. Dan, thank you. We do have a lot of other
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