North America

'This is the end of my presidency': Trump tried to get special counsel Mueller fired


In 2017 Donald Trump tried to have Special Counsel Robert Mueller ousted from the Russia probe, Mueller's report has revealed.

Public at last, US Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report has revealed President Donald Trump tried to seize control of the Russia probe and force Mr Mueller's removal to stop him from investigating potential obstruction of justice by the president.

The report says that in June 2017, Mr Trump directed White House Counsel Don McGahn to call the acting attorney general and say that Mr Mueller must be ousted because he had conflicts of interest.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller's redacted report that includes written answers from President Donald Trump as released on Thursday, April 18, 2019, is photographed in Washington (AAP)

Mr McGahn refused - deciding he would rather resign than trigger what he regarded as a potential "Saturday Night Massacre" of Watergate firings fame.

For all of that, Mueller said in his report that he could not conclusively determine that the president had committed criminal obstruction of justice.

The US Justice Department posted a redacted version of the report online on Thursday morning local time, 90 minutes after Attorney General William Barr offered his own final assessment of the findings.

The two-volume, 448-page report recounts how Mr Trump repeatedly sought to take control of the Russia probe.

US Attorney General William Barr and other associates hold a press conference at the US Department of Justice in Washington, DC, USA, 18 April 2019 (AAP)

Mueller evaluated 10 episodes for possible obstruction of justice, including Mr Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey, the president's directive to subordinates to have Mueller fired, and efforts to encourage witnesses not to co-operate.

The president's lawyers have said Mr Trump's conduct fell within his constitutional powers, but Mueller's team deemed the episodes deserving of criminal scrutiny.

Mueller reported that Mr Trump had been agitated at the special counsel probe from its earliest days, reacting to Mueller's appointment by saying it was the "end of his presidency".

As for the question of whether the Trump campaign had colluded with Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign, Mueller said there was insufficient evidence.

Trump believed the investigation was an end to his presidency, according to the report.
Trump believed the investigation was an end to his presidency, according to the report.

"While the investigation identified numerous links between individuals with ties to the Russian government and individuals associated with the Trump Campaign, the evidence was not sufficient to support criminal charges," Mueller wrote.

Mueller also said there was not sufficient evidence to charge any campaign officials with working as an unregistered foreign agent of Russia.

The report included an appendix that contained 12 pages of Mr Trump's written responses to the special counsel.

Mr Trump told Mr Mueller he had "no recollection" of learning in advance about the much-scrutinised Trump Tower meeting between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer.

He also said he had no recollection of knowledge about emails setting up the meeting that promised dirt on Hillary Clinton's campaign.

He broadly denied knowing of any foreign government trying to help his campaign, including the Russian government.

He said he was aware of some reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made "complimentary statements" about him.

Mr Trump said that his comment during a 2016 political rally asking Russian hackers to help find emails scrubbed from Clinton's private server was made "in jest and sarcastically" and that he did not recall being told during the campaign of any Russian effort to infiltrate or hack computer systems.

Robert Mueller.
Robert Mueller.

Mr Trump's legal team called the results "a total victory for the president".

'I'm f*****': How Trump reacted

US President Donald Trump reacted with dismay when told a special counsel had been appointed to look into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, according to the Mueller report.

Mr Trump was informed on May 17, 2017 of the appointment of former FBI director Robert Mueller as special counsel by then-attorney general Jeff Sessions, the report said.

"When Sessions told the president that a special counsel had been appointed, the president slumped back in his chair and said, 'Oh my God. This is terrible. This is the end of my presidency. I'm f*****,'" the report said, citing notes from the meeting.

Mr Trump then became angry at Mr Sessions for recusing himself from the Russia investigation because of his prior contacts with Russian officials, it said.

The redacted Mueller report.
The redacted Mueller report.

"The president became angry and lambasted the attorney general for his decision to recuse from the investigation, stating 'How could you let this happen, Jeff?'" the report said.

"Everyone tells me if you get one of these independent counsels it ruins your presidency," Mr Trump was quoted as saying. "It takes years and years and I won't be able to do anything.

"This is the worst thing that ever happened to me," the president added.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch