Trump’s allies have latched on to a clear line of defense after the latest Russia bombshell

Sean Hannity.

Sean Hannity.
Screenshot/Fox News
  • President Donald Trump’s defenders had a collective response to reports that he wanted to fire the special counsel Robert Mueller last year: Who cares?
  • Trump has denied the reports, while multiple outlets have confirmed the initial New York Times story.

President Donald Trump’s backers had a collective response to the bombshell news that he sought to fire the special counsel Robert Mueller last June: Who cares?

A New York Times report published Thursday said that Trump ordered the White House general counsel, Don McGahn, to fire Mueller, who had been chosen to lead the FBI’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election, but that the president pulled back when McGahn threatened to resign.

Multiple outlets, including The Washington Post and Politico, later confirmed the report. Trump has denied the accuracy of the story.

Mueller’s investigation, which has expanded to include whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian officials, appears to be focusing on whether Trump sought to obstruct justice, namely by firing James Comey as FBI director in May.

The Washington Post also reported this week that Trump sought for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to fire the deputy FBI director, Andrew McCabe, and that he asked McCabe who he voted for in 2016.

First up in criticizing the Times article was Anthony Scaramucci, the short-lived White House communications director, who told CNN’s Chris Cuomo the story was “totally irrelevant because he actually didn’t fire Mueller.”

Scaramucci later defended his CNN comments on Twitter.

“My point was that @POTUS should be able to have a private conversation with WH Counsel without the content being leaked to press,” he wrote. “He didn’t fire the special counsel, so the NYT story is irrelevant. Timing of leak is meant to distract from his recent policy wins and @Davos fanfare.”

Then the Fox News host Sean Hannity insisted on his program Thursday night that The Times was “trying to distract you,” adding that Fox News sources were not confirming the accuracy of the Times story.

But minutes later, Hannity reversed course.

“All right, so we have sources tonight just confirming … that yeah, maybe Donald Trump wanted to fire the special counsel for a conflict,” he said. “Does he not have the right to raise those questions?”

Trump’s favorite morning show, “Fox & Friends,” continued the theme on Friday as Ainsley Earhardt, a cohost, offered a defense in her closing remarks on a segment about the story.

“All right, well, the president says that’s fake news, it happened last June, it’s something we have to tell you about because it is a headline on The New York Times,” she said. “What do you think about that? Do you even care?”

The former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, who was ousted from the network last year, joined in on Twitter, criticizing the sourcing of the Times story while downplaying the content.

“It is not surprising that President Trump considered firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller last June and it is not an accident that The New York Times is reporting the story that is once again, based on anonymous sources,” he wrote.