Trump returns from Davos to host of Russia inquiry claims

Growing indications that investigation is focusing on whether Trump obstructed justice

US president Donald Trump returned from the World Economic Forum in Davos to face a wave of new allegations involving the Russia investigation, including reports that he tried to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

The New York Times reported that the president ordered the dismissal of Mr Mueller but ultimately decided not to carry that out after White House senior counsel Donald McGahn threatened to resign.

It was reported that Mr Mueller had learned about the matter in recent months during interviews with senior White House officials.

Mr Mueller was appointed by the deputy attorney general to lead the Russia investigation after Mr Trump fired FBI director James Comey last May.


Asked about the report in Davos, Mr Trump dismissed it as “fake news”.

It comes at the end of a week which saw a series of revelations emerge about the Russia investigation, including confirmation that attorney general Jeff Sessions was interviewed by the special counsel last week.

There are growing indications that Mr Mueller's investigation is focusing on whether Mr Trump obstructed justice, in particular through his decision to fire Mr Comey. His decision to fire his national security adviser Mike Flynn, who has already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI, is also under scrutiny.

Before his departure for Davos, Mr Trump said he would be happy to be interviewed by Mr Mueller’s team and would do so under oath.

“I would love to do it, and I would like to do it as soon as possible,” he said.

Contentious negotiations

Meanwhile, as Washington prepares for contentious negotiations on immigration in the coming weeks, the White House said on Friday that Mr Trump is willing to offer a path to citizenship to so-called Dreamers – undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children.

The administration is prepared to offer a 10- to 12-year path to citizenship for these young immigrants, with provisos for work, education and “good moral character”.

But in exchange, Mr Trump is demanding $25 billion (€20.13 billion) in funding from Congress for a border wall and other measures, as well as enhanced funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

The US president also wants to abolish the visa lottery system offered to 50,000 people annually. Approximately 150 visas are issued to Irish citizens under this system.

Irish representatives and immigration lobbyists are meeting with officials in Washington in a bid to ensure that Irish interests are met under any new immigration legislation, with US envoy John Deasy meeting with several officials this week.

This includes possible provisions for future flows of Irish people to the US as well as the thousands of undocumented Irish people living in the United States, a number which the Government estimates is between 10,000 and 15,000.

Tougher battle

While it is expected that a bipartisan deal on immigration could get support in the Senate, it is likely to face a tougher battle in the House of Representatives.

Several Democrats have already reacted with fury to the White House demands for funding for the border wall.

Senator Chuck Schumer said this week that he was withdrawing his offer of funding for the wall, which he made during a meeting with Mr Trump last week to try to avoid a government shutdown.

Democrats agreed to support a short-term funding Bill on Monday, bringing an end to the three-day government shutdown, in exchange for a deal on immigration.

The precise shape of this immigration deal is being thrashed out in an effort to secure agreement before a February 8th deadline.

Further details from Mr Trump’s immigration plan are expected to be included in his state-of-the-union address which he is due to deliver to both Houses of Congress next Tuesday.

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent