White House Counsel Don McGahn did not carry out a direct order from President Donald Trump to tell the Department of Justice to fire Special Counsel Robert Muller, according to the Mueller report.
Trump called McGahn on June 17, 2017, and told him to call Acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and tell him to remove Mueller because of conflicts of interest.
Trump believed that Mueller had conflicts of interest because he had interviewed for the FBI position, worked for a law firm representing people affiliated with the president, and disputed fees related to his membership at one of his golf clubs.
Trump’s advisors told him that his list did not constitute conflicts of interest.
The report notes that McGahn did not carry out the president’s order and was prepared to resign rather than carry it out. He was reportedly concerned about a Nixonian “Saturday Night Massacre” that would doom the Trump presidency.
He drove to his office to pack up and submit his resignation letter, then called White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and White House strategist Steve Bannon to inform them of his decision.
Both officials urged McGahn not to quit so he changed his mind, returning to work the following Monday.
The New York Times detailed the story in January of 2018, prompting the president to pressure McGahn to publicly deny the report.
McGahn refused, according to the Mueller report, knowing that his memory of the incident was accurate.