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

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE on Friday insisted that he did not order former White House counsel Don McGahn to fire special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerCNN's Toobin warns McCabe is in 'perilous condition' with emboldened Trump CNN anchor rips Trump over Stone while evoking Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting The Hill's 12:30 Report: New Hampshire fallout 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.


"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 RosensteinTrump turns his ire toward Cabinet members Ex-deputy attorney general says Justice Dept. 'will ignore' Trump's threats against political rivals The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Facebook - Trump's erratic tweets upend stimulus talks; COVID-19 spreads in White House 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 BarrMerrick Garland on list to be Biden's attorney general: report DOJ dropping charges against ex-Mexican defense minister DOJ watchdog finds Louisiana inmates with coronavirus were not isolated for a week 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.