U.S. President Donald Trump has dismissed a report that he ordered Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be fired but reversed the decision after his own lawyer threatened to resign, calling it "fake news."
The New York Times reported on January 25 that Trump demanded Mueller’s firing in June 2017 but that White House counsel Donald McGahn said he would quit rather than follow through on the order.
McGahn said the sacking would have a "catastrophic effect" on the presidency, The New York Times reported. The report cited four unnamed people close to the matter.
Trump dismissed the report as he arrived at the site of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on January 26, during a two-day visit.
"Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories," Trump told reporters, without addressing a specific allegation.
The New York Times said there was no immediate responses to requests for comment from the White House.
U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election in favor of Trump and to hurt the chances of Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
Mueller and three congressional panels are separately investigating the alleged meddling and any potential ties between the Trump campaign and the Russians.
Trump denies there was any collusion, and Moscow has denied it interfered in the U.S. election process.
Much speculation has grown around whether Trump will attempt to fire Mueller as his investigation proceeds. Trump has at times called the probe a “witch hunt” and reports of Russian collusion “a hoax.”
The New York Times report said Trump had argued in June that Mueller had three conflicts of interest that disqualified him from conducting the probe.
Amid the conflicts Trump claimed, the paper reported, was a dispute years ago over fees at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia that had led Mueller to resign his membership.
Meanwhile, more than 20 White House employees have given interviews to Mueller.
Trump attorney John Dowd on January 25 said the number of interviews and the thousands of pages of documents highlight the White House's "unprecedented" cooperation with the probe.
Dowd said the White House has turned over 20,000 pages of records, while the president's 2016 campaign has turned over more than 1.4 million pages.
Names of those interviewed were not released.
Trump has said he is "looking forward" to being questioned under oath in the special counsel's probe.
"I would love to do it," Trump told reporters on January 24. "I would like to do it as soon as possible... subject to my lawyers and all of that."
Based on reporting by The New York Times, AP, and AFP