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Trump contradicts McGahn, says he didn't ask for Mueller's firing

President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE on Friday insisted that he did not order former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE, despite McGahn's testimony to the contrary, explaining that he was aware of the potential consequences.

"I’m a student of history. I see what you get when you fire people, and it’s not good," Trump told reporters as he departed the White House for a National Rifle Association conference in Indianapolis.

The president maintained he had the legal right to fire Mueller, but that he chose not to.

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"I never told Don McGahn to fire Mueller," he said. "If I wanted to fire Mueller I would’ve done it myself. It’s very simple. I had the right to. And frankly, whether I did or [McGahn] did, we had the absolute right to fire Mueller."

Trump first denied on Thursday that he directed McGahn to fire the special counsel. His defense contradicted McGahn's testimony to Mueller's team of investigators.

The former White House counsel sat for hours of interviews and provided contemporaneous notes, which produced some of the most damaging aspects of the special counsel's report on the Russia investigation.

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 RosensteinHouse Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists The Hill's Morning Report - Biden-Putin meeting to dominate the week Media leaders to meet with Garland to discuss leak investigations 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.

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.

The incidents were detailed as part of 10 episodes the special counsel's office said it reviewed for possible obstruction of justice by Trump. Mueller neither exonerated nor implicated Trump on obstruction, but Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump, allies pressured DOJ to back election claims, documents show House Judiciary to probe DOJ's seizure of data from lawmakers, journalists Judge temporarily blocks release of Trump obstruction memo MORE said he and Rosenstein found there was not sufficient evidence to bring such charges.

McGahn has been at the center of a political firestorm in the aftermath of Mueller's report, and House Democrats have subpoenaed him for testimony.

Trump has signaled he will stonewall Democratic requests and assert executive privilege to block McGahn from testifying. 

He told reporters on Wednesday that the White House is "fighting all the subpoenas," setting up a prolonged legal battle with congressional Democrats.

The president has argued that his administration was sufficiently cooperative with Mueller's nearly two-year investigation and that subsequent Democratic probes into his actions are overreach.

"This is a pure political witch hunt," Trump said Friday.

"We did nothing wrong, and the only thing I did is make our country stronger," he continued. "If I’m guilty of anything, it’s that I’ve been a great president and the Democrats don’t like it, which is a shame."

Updated at 10:25 a.m.