Asked about the reports while at a summit in Davos, Switzerland, Trump called it “fake news.”
“Fake news folks, fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories,” he told reporters.
The reports say that Trump felt Mueller faced conflicts of interest in investigating Trump because he resigned his membership at a Trump golf club in Virginia over fees; worked for a law firm that had previously represented his son-in-law, Jared Kushner; and had been interviewed to return as FBI director in May.
What do we know about the potential firing of Mueller by Trump? Here’s a quick look.
June 11: Jay Sekulow says Trump has the power to fire Mueller
In an interview with George Stephanopoulos on ABC’s This Week, newly hired Trump attorney Jay Sekulow argued that Trump has the constitutional authority to fire Mueller if he wants, citing a controversial and expansive theory of presidential power known as the “unitary executive.”
June 12: Christopher Ruddy says Trump might fire Mueller
In a June 12 interview, Trump confidant Christopher Ruddy, CEO of the conservative Newsmax Media group, said that Trump was considering firing Mueller. “I think he’s considering perhaps terminating the special counsel. I think he’s weighing that option,” he told PBS’ Judy Woodruff.
The following day, the New York Times reported Trump was “entertaining the idea of firing” Mueller but that White House staff successfully discouraged him, and White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders told a press gaggle aboard Air Force One that it was within his power:
June 14: Reports that Mueller probe is widening
Reports from the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post on June 14 both indicated that Mueller’s investigation had now expanded to look at whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice when he fired Comey.
June 15: Trump criticizes Mueller on Twitter
In mid-June, Trump then took to Twitter to criticize the special counsel investigation, particularly over its potential focus on obstruction of justice, calling it the “single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history” (a phrase he has repeatedly used to describe the investigation) and arguing that investigators had conflicts of interest.
The next day, he tweeted again, appearing to criticize Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
The tweet has two inaccuracies. First, Rosenstein is not investigating Trump; he simply oversees Mueller’s investigation,. Second, Rosenstein wrote the memo criticizing FBI Director James Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation at Trump’s request.
July 19: Trump says Mueller should not investigate his finances
During an interview with the Times in July, Trump then said Mueller would cross a line if he began looking into his family’s finances:
But in the interview, Trump also declined to say whether he would fire him if that happened:
Aug. 6: Kellyanne Conway says Trump has ‘not discussed’ firing Mueller
In an appearance on ABC’s This Week, White House adviser Kellyanne Conway said Trump “has not even discussed” firing Mueller:
Oct. 16: Trump says he’d like investigation to end
At a joint news conference with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in October, Trump said that he would like to see the special counsel’s investigation end because “the American public is sick of it.”
But he again said he was not considering firing Mueller:
Oct. 30: White House says ‘no plans’ to fire Mueller
On Oct. 30, former Trump campaign foreign policy advisor George Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as part of Mueller’s investigation. At a news briefing in the White House that day, Sanders was again asked if Trump plans to fire Mueller and again said he does not:
Dec. 17: Trump says he is not considering firing Mueller
Returning from a weekend at Camp David, Trump tells reporters that he is not considering firing Mueller, a question prompted by complaints from his allies about how Mueller’s team obtained emails from the presidential transition.
“No, I’m not,” he said.
Jan. 23: White House says firing Mueller would not be ‘helpful’
After a White House spokesperson again referred to the special counsel’s investigation as a “witch hunt,” Sanders was again asked if Trump would fire Mueller, and she said it would not be “helpful to the process.”