Donald Trump denies he tried to fire Mueller, disputing account from a former senior White House aide

David Jackson

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump insisted Thursday that he did not try to fire Robert Mueller, disputing a central finding in the special counsel's report that was based on extensive interviews with Trump's former White House counsel, Don McGahn.

"As has been incorrectly reported by the Fake News Media, I never told then White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert Mueller, even though I had the legal right to do so," Trump tweeted. "If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn’t need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself."

The special counsel spent nearly two years investigating whether anyone from Trump's presidential campaign conspired with Russia to sway the 2016 election and whether the president sought to illegally obstruct justice.

Mueller's 448-page report detailed multiple contacts between Russian operatives and Trump associates during the campaign but said investigators didn’t find evidence of a criminal conspiracy. The report documented actions by Trump to derail Mueller's investigation. The special counsel did not conclude Trump obstructed justice, but it refused to clear him of wrongdoing.

McGahn told Mueller's team that Trump ordered him to have the special counsel fired and later asked him to lie about the incident. McGahn spent hours speaking to investigators and supplied written notes.

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Trump has repeatedly called the Mueller investigation a "witch hunt" and a "hoax." He also claimed the report vindicated him.

In recent days, he has lashed out at House Democrats, who vowed to conduct their own fact finding and seek to have McGahn and other figures in the inquiry testify on Capitol Hill. Trump indicated he will try to block testimony by McGahn.

The Mueller report's findings spurred calls by some House Democrats to move toward impeachment proceedings, though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., urged her colleagues to focus first on carrying out an investigation.

The Mueller report details an incident June 17, 2017, that McGahn described to investigators.

Trump "called McGahn at home and directed him to call the Acting Attorney General and say that the Special Counsel had conflicts of interest and must be removed," the report says. "McGahn did not carry out the direction, however, deciding that he would resign rather than trigger what he regarded as a potential Saturday Night Massacre."

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In January 2018, Trump "met with McGahn in the Oval Office with only the Chief of Staff present and tried to get McGahn to say that the President never ordered him to fire the Special Counsel," the report says. "McGahn refused and insisted his memory of the President’s direction to remove the Special Counsel was accurate."

Trump refused to sit for an interview by the special counsel and his team. He responded to written questions on specific topics but did not answer questions relating to obstruction of justice.

In another tweet Thursday, Trump said, "Mueller was NOT fired and was respectfully allowed to finish his work on what I, and many others, say was an illegal investigation (there was no crime), headed by a Trump hater who was highly conflicted."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Donald Trump denies he tried to fire Mueller, disputing account from a former senior White House aide