'A Step Toward Authoritarianism': Trump Crossed 'Red Line' By Trying to Fire Mueller

For months, President Donald Trump has fervently denied every suggestion that he has considered firing special counsel Robert Mueller, but a new report on Thursday revealed that Trump hasn't merely pondered firing Mueller—he actually ordered the termination last June, only to back down after chief White House lawyer Donald McGahn threatened to quit rather than comply.

According to the New York Times, Trump first told McGahn over the summer to ask the Justice Department—headed by Trump appointee and loyalist Attorney General Jeff Sessions—to dismiss Mueller "amid the first wave of news media reports" suggesting that the special counsel is compiling a possible obstruction of justice case against the president.

Trump reportedly suggested that Mueller should be fired over "conflicts of interest that disqualified him from overseeing the investigation," the Times notes, including an alleged "dispute" in 2011 that caused Mueller to cancel his membership at Trump's Virginia golf club. (McGahn didn't buy Trump's case.)

While multiple outlets confirmed the Times' original scoop on the president's order, Trump on Friday denied it publicly.

Ethics experts and activists who have warned for months that Trump is getting closer to firing Mueller—particularly as he begins to probe Trump's sprawling business empire—seized upon Thursday's report as further proof of "just how close we were, and still are, to a true constitutional crisis."

Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti argued in response to the Times report that Trump's order to fire Mueller will greatly bolster any obstruction of justice case against the president.

"The fact that Trump came up with his own excuses to fire Mueller suggests that he knew that firing Mueller in order to end the Russia investigation was unlawful but he wanted to fire him anyway," Mariotti wrote on Twitter late Thursday. "That's really powerful evidence for Mueller."

As Common Dreams has reported, activist groups have planned a mass, nationwide protest in the case that Trump succeeds in firing Mueller.

Ben Wikler, Washington director of MoveOn.org—one of the many groups that has participated in planning the mobilization—reiterated the importance of taking to the streets if the special counsel is ousted.

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