President Donald Trump tried to end the special counsel probe in December, marking the second known attempt to do so, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
The Times report on Tuesday evening came as CNN reported that Trump is considering firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who has oversight of the Mueller probe, following a federal raid on Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.
In December, angered by reports of subpoenas for information on his business with Deutsche Bank, Trump told advisers he wanted the investigation to be shut down, according to the Times’ report.
The Times report, based on interviews with eight sources, said the President backed down after Mueller’s office told Trump’s lawyers and advisers that reports about the subpoenas were inaccurate.
The report outlines the second time Trump is known to have moved to quash the probe, and follows previous reporting that the President moved to fire Mueller last June, which a source said White House counsel Donald McGahn refused. Trump denied the story at the time.
Under special counsel regulations, Mueller’s office would have to discuss with the attorney general whether to keep an investigation under the special counsel’s office or to refer it to a different jurisdiction. Because Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from oversight of the investigation, Rosenstein would then presumably decide which investigative team moves forward.
Trump has regularly lashed out at Mueller’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” and following news of the raid Monday, he offered a mixed response when asked about firing the special counsel.
“Why don’t I just fire Mueller?” the President said. “Well, I think it’s a disgrace what’s going on. We’ll see what happens.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said on Tuesday that Trump “certainly believes he has the power” to fire Mueller, who under the special counsel regulations can be removed only by the attorney general, or in this case Rosenstein.