Trump Could Get Caught Up If Mueller Asks Whether He Wanted to Fire Him, Experts Say

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 14, 2011. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Updated | As special counsel Robert Mueller decides whether he will recommend presidential impeachment proceedings in his Russia probe, Donald Trump's fate may already be sealed before he sits down for his promised interview with Mueller in about two or three weeks, experts say.

On Thursday, The New York Times reported that Trump ordered the firing of Mueller, who is probing whether the president's campaign aided Russian interference in the 2016 election. Four sources who were told of the matter disclosed to the Times that the president backed down on his order when White House counsel Don McGahn threatened to resign.

"Fake news. Fake news. Typical New York Times. Fake stories," Trump said of the story in brief remarks early Friday as he held meetings at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Then-FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on December 14, 2011. Win McNamee/Getty Images

Yet if the report is true, it would mean that Trump may not be able to avoid answering an uncomfortable question during Mueller's interview that could tie his hands: Did you order my firing?

Either a yes or no answer could be a crime, according to some experts.

"Either answer is a crime. Yes locks in obstruction case. No is lying to the FBI. That's a real trap," wrote Ken Gude‏, a senior fellow for national security who studies law and counterterrorism at the nonpartisan Center for American Progress think tank, on Twitter.

Knowingly making false statements to the FBI and federal law enforcement officers, whether or not the subject is under oath, is considered a crime.

Trump told reporters Wednesday that he wants to be "under oath" during his interview with Mueller and that his lawyers are negotiating for the interview to happen in "about two or three weeks."

Related: What will Mueller ask Trump? The special counsel has given the White House topics for their interview

Trump's personal lawyers defending him in Mueller's Russia investigation have received a list of topics the special counsel plans to cover, according to CNN. One source said that chief among those topics is whether Trump has obstructed justice by attempting to quash the Russia investigation.

Former FBI Director James Comey testified to the Senate last June that before his May 9 firing he believed Trump pressured him to curtail the FBI's probe into Russian interference. Multiple reports have appeared over the past year indicating Trump may have pressured as many as seven officials and lawmakers to protect him from the Russia investigation. Mueller has conducted interviews with many of these officials in recent weeks.

Trump indicated Wednesday that he believes investigators are trying to turn the tables on him by switching from examining questions of "collusion" between his campaign and Russia to questions about whether he tried to stymie that investigation.

"There's no collusion. Now they're saying, 'Oh, well, did he fight back?' If you fight back, Jon, you fight back. You fight back: Oh, it's obstruction," Trump said in response to a question by ABC News's Jonathan Karl Wednesday. Trump said he hopes Mueller will be fair to him.

"The president said yesterday that what some call obstruction was just him 'fighting back.' Of course, there's a word for doing things that interfere with an investigation with the purpose of 'fighting back.' That word is obstruction," wrote Noah Bookbinder, a former chief counsel for criminal justice for the Senate Judiciary Committee, on Twitter Thursday. He is now head of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an ethics watchdog group.

National security lawyer Brad Moss wrote on Twitter Thursday that the latest story about Trump's reported efforts to fire Mueller make it almost certain "there will be a recommendation in Mueller's report that Congress consider impeachment proceedings."

It would not be the first time a president has been accused of obstruction of justice and faced impeachment-related questions about it.

President Bill Clinton was impeached in the House in 1998 on charges of perjury and obstruction of justice after he was accused of lying to a grand jury about his relationship with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky during an investigation by independent counsel Ken Starr.

Clinton was acquitted in early 1999 following hearings in the Senate.

Correction: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of White House counsel Don McGahn's name.