Donald Trump can’t actually fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller; the only person who doesn’t seem to understand that fact is Donald Trump. Now it turns out Trump did try to fire Mueller, but he met such fierce resistance from his own people that he ended up backing down. This is a remarkable revelation, as it means Trump not only attempted to commit yet another act of obstruction of justice, but failed in the process. It also further suggests that one of his own top people – still working in the White House – has flipped on him.
Trump ordered White House Counsel Don McGahn to find a way to fire Robert Mueller back in June, just a few weeks after Mueller had been appointed. McGahn would have had to order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller, according to a New York Times report (link). Assuming Rosenstein would have refused, McGahn would have then had to fire Rosenstein and everyone else in the Department of Justice line of succession until he found someone willing to fire Mueller. McGahn would have been committing obstruction of justice in the process. Instead of carrying out Trump’s order, he threatened to resign.
This isn’t necessarily a surprise. Trump has reportedly been stewing about Mueller all along. Here’s what stands out, however. Don McGahn and former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus are using the same attorney to represent them in the Russia scandal. This means they’re taking the exact same legal strategy, or else the attorney would have to dump one of them. Priebus has already turned over his own personal notes to Mueller, meaning that he’s flipped. By definition, this means McGahn has flipped as well. That’s rather stunning, considering he’s still on the job.
This also means that Don McGahn has surely told Robert Mueller about Donald Trump’s illegal attempt at firing Robert Mueller. So now Mueller has Trump nailed on yet another attempt at obstruction of justice. In other words, the stunt not only failed, it backfired on Trump spectacularly.