Trump ordered Mueller's firing last year but was stopped by WH counsel: report

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSchiff: Surveillance warrant docs show that Nunes memo 'misrepresented and distorted these applications' Chicago detention facility under investigation following allegations of abuse of migrant children Ex-Trump aide: Surveillance warrants are 'complete ignorance' and 'insanity' MORE attempted to fire special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE last summer but was stopped after White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign, according to a new report.

The New York Times reports Trump ordered Mueller to be fired in June, according to four people with knowledge of the matter.

Trump reportedly said Mueller had conflicts of interest in his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election, including a dispute over fees at Trump’s National Golf Club in Virginia and Mueller’s previous employment at a law firm that represent Trump’s son-in-law Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerGeorge Will charges that Trump colluded with Putin DNC claims Secret Service blocked attempt to deliver lawsuit against Kushner On The Money: US files complaints at WTO | House leaders get deal to boost biz investment | Mnuchin says US will consider Iran sanctions waivers | FCC deals blow to Sinclair-Tribune merger MORE, according to the Times.

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However, McGahn reportedly refused the president's order and threatened to quit, believing that Trump's order would further stir speculation that the president was obstructing justice in the Russia investigation. 

Another option considered by the president involved removing Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod Jay RosensteinHillicon Valley: Trump's Russia moves demoralize his team | Congress drops effort to block ZTE deal | Rosenstein warns of foreign influence threat | AT&T's latest 5G plans The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Rosenstein warns of growing cyber threat from Russia, other foreign actors MORE, the Justice Department's second-highest official, and appointing Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand to oversee Mueller's team of prosecutors. This option also never materialized.
 
According to the Times, Trump's lawyer Ty Cobb and others in the White House have for months attempted to calm Trump on matters involving Mueller by insisting the investigation is almost over.
 
Cobb, who is handling the White House's response to the Mueller probe, declined to comment to the Times.
 
“We decline to comment out of respect for the Office of the Special Counsel and its process,” Cobb said.
 
Mueller recently found out about Trump’s attempt to have him fired, according to the Times, as his team has begun interviewing top current and former Trump officials.
 
The Times's bombshell report comes just a day after Trump said he would be willing to interview with Mueller. 
 
Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday that he is "looking forward" to the opportunity to sit down with Mueller, insisting that he has done nothing wrong.

"There’s been no collusion whatsoever. There’s no obstruction whatsoever, and I’m looking forward to it," Trump said.

The president also acknowledged at the time that whether he speaks to investigators would depend on the advice of his lawyers. 

“You know, again, it’s ... subject to my lawyers and all of that — but I would love to do it,” he said.

Democratic lawmakers seized on the report Thursday night that Trump attempted to fire Mueller, warning against any attempts to obstruct justice.

“I’ve said it before, and I am saying it again: firing the Special Counsel is a red line that the President cannot cross," Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerSenate panel advances Trump IRS nominee Bipartisan bill would bring needed funds to deteriorating National Park Service infrastructure Senate Dems press for info on any deals from Trump-Putin meeting MORE (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a statement responding to the Times report.

"Any attempt to remove the Special Counsel, pardon key witnesses, or otherwise interfere in the investigation, would be a gross abuse of power, and all members of Congress, from both parties, have a responsibility to our Constitution and to our country to make that clear immediately," he said.

Updated: 9:26 p.m.