WASHINGTON — The Mueller report may have concluded there was not enough evidence of collusion and declined to reach a conclusion on the evidence indicating possible obstruction, but one thing it did show was that cries of fake news by the White House were in some cases crying wolf.
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For example, the report found that in January 2018, following a story in the New York Times, President Donald Trump's personal counsel called the attorney for White House counsel Don McGahn and asked that McGahn put out a statement denying Trump had asked him to fire special counsel Robert Mueller or that McGahn threatened to quit, as the Times had reported. McGahn's response, through his attorney, was no, that the Times article was not wrong, though it was inaccurate in that he did not tell the president directly he would resign.
The president had branded the underlying story that he had called for dismissing Mueller. "Fake news, folks. Fake news. A typical New York Times fake story," something he has done with regularity over the past months and years:
A week later, according to the report, then chief of staff Reince Priebus went on Meet the Press to say he had not heard the president say he wanted McGahn fired.
Trump then tried to force McGahn to dispute the Times story in writing, even though McGahn said it was essentially true, signaling McGahn might be fired if he didn't dispute the report, which the president said didn‘t “look good.” McGahn again refused.
While it is the president‘s word against McGahn's, the report concluded there was sustantial evidence “in repeatedly urging McGahn to dispute that he was orderd to have the special xounsel terminated, the president acted for the purpose of influencing McGahn‘s account in order to deflect or prevent further scrutiny of the president's conduct towards the investigation.”
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