Efforts by President Donald Trump to obstruct justice – including his desire to remove special counsel Robert Mueller – failed because others refused to “carry out orders,” a redacted version of Mueller’s report said.
After media reports indicated in June 2017 that the special counsel was investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice, the President called then-White House counsel Don McGahn and directed him to call the acting attorney general and say Mueller “had conflicts of interest and must be removed,” Mueller’s report said.
McGahn did not follow through on Trump’s request.
“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests,” Mueller said in the report.
“McGahn did not tell the Acting Attorney General that the Special Counsel must be removed, but was instead prepared to resign over the President’s order,” Mueller wrote.
He added that McGahn would “rather resign than trigger what he regarded as a potential “Saturday Night Massacre,” a reference to President Richard Nixon’s ousting of individuals connected to the Watergate investigation, including special prosecutor Archibald Cox, in order to end the probe.
McGahn eventually left the White House last fall.
The revelation from Mueller’s report, which was released Thursday, confirms a 2018 New York Times story that said Trump ordered Mueller to be fired in June 2017. According to the paper, discussions about Mueller’s ousting arose following reports that Mueller was looking into a possible obstruction of justice case against the President, who then raised the argument about Mueller having possible conflicts of interest.
At the time of the Times report, Trump denied that he had moved to fire Mueller, dismissing the idea as “fake news.”
In the report, Mueller also detailed some of Trump’s other “efforts to influence the investigation” that were unsuccessful because those around him did not “carry out orders or accede to his requests.”
He cited an attempt by Trump in 2017 to get then-FBI Director James Comey to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was later prosecuted by Mueller. He also included the denial of a request by the President to Corey Lewandowski, his former campaign manager, and Rick Dearborn, a former White House aide, to tell then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions in 2017 to “confine the Russia investigation to future election meddling only.”
CNN’s Sophie Tatum and Kara Scannell contributed to this report.