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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSarah Huckabee Sanders becomes Fox News contributor The US-Iranian scuffle over a ship is a sideshow to events in the Gulf South Korea: US, North Korea to resume nuclear talks 'soon' MORE on Friday insisted that he did not order former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerMueller report fades from political conversation Trump calls for probe of Obama book deal Democrats express private disappointment with Mueller testimony 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 Rosenstein10 declassified Russia collusion revelations that could rock Washington this fall Why the presumption of innocence doesn't apply to Trump McCabe sues FBI, DOJ, blames Trump for his firing 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 BarrWilliam Pelham BarrBarr says he has seen 'nothing' to undercut Epstein autopsy findings Prosecutors are mainly to blame for the criminal justice crisis The Hill's Morning Report - Trump hews to NRA on guns and eyes lower taxes 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.