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Trump Dismisses Reports That Say He Tried To Fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller


Earlier today, President Trump was at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He was there to pitch U.S. investment. But as has happened on some of his earlier trips overseas, he found himself answering questions about the Russia investigation. This time, he was responding to a New York Times report that he had ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller back in June. The Times reports Trump backed off when his White House counsel threatened to quit. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports on how it played out in Davos.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: As President Trump walked into the World Economic Forum, he was surrounded by cameras and reporters all asking a variation on the same question.


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Why did you want to fire Robert Mueller?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Fake news, folks, fake news.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's your message today?

TRUMP: Typical New York Times fake story.

KEITH: Now, claiming fake news is nothing new for the president, and he often applies that label to factual stories he simply doesn't like. From there it was onto meetings with other world leaders and then a speech. Trump was there at the gathering of global elites in Davos to make a pitch.


TRUMP: America is the place to do business. So come to America, where you can innovate, create and build. I believe in America.

KEITH: Trump's speech was quite similar to remarks he's delivered at other international forums and meetings, read carefully without veering into the kind of improvisation that characterizes his rally speeches in the U.S. Trump in this setting sought to explain his America First rallying cry as looking out for the American people first but not turning away from the rest of the world.


TRUMP: But America First does not mean America alone. When the United States grows, so does the world. American prosperity has created countless jobs all around the globe.

KEITH: Trump talked up the U.S. economy and his administration's efforts to cut regulations and taxes. He even somewhat softened his rhetoric on trade. Pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal was one of Trump's first acts as president. But in Davos, he opened the door to another multilateral trade deal with the same TPP countries as long as it's fair and reciprocal.


TRUMP: We have agreements with several of them already. We would consider negotiating with the rest either individually or perhaps as a group if it is in the interests of all.

KEITH: The other countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership are moving on together without the U.S. Trump closed with a direct plea to the business and political leaders in the audience, people who in another setting he might call globalists and elites.


TRUMP: Today I am inviting all of you to become part of this incredible future we are building together.

KEITH: Then it was time for a brief Q&A session where President Trump was asked what experiences from his past have been most useful in preparing him for the presidency. The script no longer serving as a guide, Trump talked about his career in business, saying he has always been successful at making money. Trump claimed that if he hadn't won the election, the stock market would have crashed. And then he returned to familiar territory, attacking the press.


TRUMP: And it was until I became a politician that I realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be - as the cameras start going off in the back.


KEITH: The cameras didn't turn off. They stayed trained on President Trump as they always do. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.