Trump denies ordering McGahn to oust Mueller

President TrumpDonald John TrumpEsper sidesteps question on whether he aligns more with Mattis or Trump Warren embraces Thiel label: 'Good' As tensions escalate, US must intensify pressure on Iran and the IAEA MORE on Thursday said he did not order former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerTop Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have 'no choice' but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE, denying some of the most damaging testimony for the president in the special counsel’s report on the Russia investigation.

“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.”

Trump pointed out in a subsequent post that “Mueller was NOT fired and was respectfully allowed to finish his work,” even though he believes the special counsel is a “Trump hater” who led an “an illegal investigation.”

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Trump’s first direct denial of McGahn’s testimony comes one week after the release of Mueller’s redacted 448-page report, showing its findings and the media coverage of them are still attracting the president’s attention.

The report contains a litany of evidence to the contrary of the president’s claim that he did not order McGahn to get rid of Mueller.

McGahn testified under penalty of law that Trump called him at home in June 2017 and directed him to tell Deputy Attorney General Rod RosensteinRod RosensteinFeds will not charge officer who killed Eric Garner The Hill's Morning Report — Trump retreats on census citizenship question Judiciary issues blitz of subpoenas for Kushner, Sessions, Trump associates MORE that Mueller “had conflicts of interest and must be removed,” according to the report. The White House lawyer refused to carry out the order.

"McGahn recalled the president telling him 'Mueller has to go' and 'call me back when you do it,' " the report reads.

When news of the president’s order was reported last year in The New York Times, Trump met with McGahn in the Oval Office and pressured him to deny it but the lawyer also refused to do so, according to the Mueller report. Trump at the time dismissed the Times report as “fake news.”

Former White House staff secretary Rob Porter offered testimony that corroborated McGahn’s account, saying the then-White House counsel told him at the time he refused to carry out the order and would not sign a letter stating the incident never occurred.

McGahn offered hours of testimony and contemporaneous notes to the special counsel’s office, becoming one of its most useful sources of information. His name appeared roughly 150 times in the report.

That cooperation angered Trump, according to sources familiar with his thinking, who viewed McGahn as disloyal and felt frustrated about the damaging information circulating in the news media.

The House Judiciary Committee has subpoenaed McGahn to testify about the Russia investigation, but the White House has said it may invoke executive privilege to block the testimony as it wages war against congressional Democrats’ sweeping investigations of Trump.

Updated at 9:06 a.m.