TrumpWatch, Day 371: Trump Tried to Fire Mueller Last June

Special Counsel Robert Mueller and Donald Trump

Does revelation add to obstruction of justice case v. Trump?

Developments on Day 371 of the Trump Administration:

White House Lawyer Refused to Issue Order

Donald Trump tried to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June, weeks after the former FBI Director was appointed, according to “one person familiar with the matter”.

White House counsel Don McGahn refused to order the Justice Department to fire Mueller, saying he would quit instead. Trump then stepped back.

Trump also reportedly considering the removal of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, replacing him with someone who would follow the command to fire Mueller.

Legally the President cannot dismiss the Special Counsel. Instead, the decision is for the Justice Department.

About the same time, Trump turned publicly against Rosenstein, who had covered Trump’s removal of Comey with a memorandum falsely claiming it was over the FBI Director’s handling of the inquiry into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

The revelation comes amid reports that Mueller is investigating Trump for obstruction of justice in the Trump-Russia inquiry, and that the Special Counsel will soon seek an oral deposition from the President.

In early May 2017, Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in an attempt to blunt the investigation, but Mueller, who led the FBI from 2001 to 2013, was soon appointed by the Justice Department.

Two people said Trump put up three arguments for Mueller’s removal: 1) a dispute between Mueller and the Trump National Golf Club; 2) the law firm where Mueller had worked once represented Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner; and 3) Mueller had been interviewed to head the FBI after Comey’s dismissal.

White House officials said in August that Trump had never ordered Mueller’s removal.

The White House has continued to deny that Trump was considering the firing of the Special Counsel. In December, Trump insisted that he was not looking at the possibility.

And today, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Trump proclaimed, “Fake news, folks. Fake news.”

Trump: Give Me Hardline Measures and $25 Billion for Wall, I’ll Give Status to Dreamers

As expected, Donald Trump presents a proposal by White House hardliners for right to remain for about 800,000 young undocumented “Dreamer” immigrants — but only in return for $25 billion for The Wall with Mexico, an end to immigrants bringing relatives to the US, termination of the diversity visa lottery, big increases in border security measures, and sharp reductions in the admission of immigrants and refugees.

The plan has been drafted by the hardline advisor Stephen Miller and Chief of Staff John Kelly. The White House insisted it was an “extremely generous” offer on a one-time, take-it-or-leave-it basis.

Officials said the legislation would pave the way to citizenship for 690,000 people who had signed up for protection under the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and also for another 1.1 million undocumented immigrants who would have qualified for the program but never applied.

The Administration announced in September that is ending DACA on March 5, putting beneficiaries at risk of deportation. A federal judge has issued an order suspending the termination.

Republican and Democratic senators are working on a narrower bi-partisan immigration plan.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina a co-sponsor of legislation, and GOP colleague Jeff Flake of Arizona said the Senate is unlikely to simply accept the Administration’s proposal.

“We’re getting started without them,” lake said. “This is a negotiation,” said Graham.

Members of both parties said legislation has a better chance of passing if it focuses on legal status for the Dreamers without a crackdown on undocumented immigrants or new restrictions on legal immigration for family members.

“If you start putting in all of these highly charged toxic issues, it’s just not going to work,” said Senator Bill Nelson, Democrat of Florida.

Hard-right activists attacked Trump for supposed leniency. Breitbart headlined, “Amnesty Don Suggests Citizenship for Illegal Aliens”.

The White House warned that, if its measure is not accepted, Dreamers will face deportation from March 5, despite the Federal court ruling. One “senior official” said the young immigrants will not be targeted, but are “illegal immigrants” who can be processed for deportation if they came into contact with immigration officers.

Trump’s Not-Quite-Apology Over Retweeting Islamophobic Videos from Hard-Right UK Group

Donald Trump issues a not-quite-apology for retweeting Islamophobic videos in November from the hard-right group Britain First.

In an interview in Davos, Switzerland with UK chat show host Piers Morgan, Trump initially said that he was not aware of the impact of the retweets of three videos to 44 million followers, and that it “wasn’t a big story” in the US.

Prompted by Morgan that an apology “would go a long way” to help US-UK relations, Trump hedged: “Here’s what’s fair. If you’re telling me they’re horrible, racist people I would certainly apologize. I know nothing about them.”

Morgan sought clarity, “You would disavow yourself of people like that?”

Trump again avoided any direct admission of wrongdoing, “I don’t want to be involved with people like that but you’re telling me about these people because I know nothing about these people.”

Morgan’s tweet of the interview distorted the exchange to give the impression of a full apology:

Trump apparently found the first video, originally from Britain First’s deputy leader Jayda Fransen, from a retweet by hard-right US activist Ann Coulter. However, he — or a staff member — then trawled Fransen’s timeline to pick up two more videos and circulate them.

All the videos were falsified or taken out of context to indicate that Muslims are terrorists.

Contrary to his denial today, Trump was aware of the controversy at the time, hitting back at UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s criticism of his retweets.

Trump insisted again in the Morgan interview, “I am…the least racist person you will meet.”

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