Washington: Fearing that his presidency was doomed, an angry Donald Trump pushed for Robert Mueller to be fired before he could deepen his probe into Russian election meddling, the special counsel’s long-awaited report said Thursday.
The more than 400-page document made public in redacted form by the Justice Department, detailed how Trump instructed his then White House counsel, Don McGahn, to tell the acting attorney general that Mueller “must be removed” — something McGahn refused to do.
The report — which landed as the United States dives into the ferment of a bitter presidential campaign — does support Trump’s repeated assertions that he never colluded with Russian intelligence efforts to tilt the 2016 election in his favor.
“As I have been saying all along, NO COLLUSION – NO OBSTRUCTION!” the president tweeted triumphantly, later declaring that any Russian interference had no impact on the outcome of the vote.
However, the report — based on nearly two years of interviews by Mueller’s team with Trump’s inner circle — emphasized that, contrary to the Republican president’s claim, he was not cleared of obstruction of justice.
And while finding that no Americans deliberately took part in the Russian meddling, Mueller also determined that Trump was happy enough to gain an advantage from the dirty tricks.
This included the release by WikiLeaks of emails stolen by Russian agents from the team of Trump’s Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.
“The campaign expected it would benefit electorally from information stolen and released through Russian efforts,” the report said.
Trump initially celebrated the publication of the report, saying at the White House that he was “having a good day.”
But later, he left for a long Easter weekend at his Florida golf resort in a more defensive mood, insisting that he had done nothing wrong in pushing for Mueller’s dismissal.
“I had the right to end the whole Witch Hunt if I wanted. I could have fired everyone, including Mueller if I wanted. I chose not to,” Trump tweeted from Air Force One.
After arriving in Florida, he again took to Twitter, holding his predecessor Barack Obama responsible for any Russian meddling in 2016 and saying that: “Most importantly, the vote was not affected.”
Democratic congressional leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer called the report “a disturbing picture of a president who has been weaving a web of deceit, lies and improper behavior and acting as if the law doesn’t apply to him.”