President Donald Trump insisted on Thursday that he never told former White House Counsel Donald McGahn to fire special counsel Robert Mueller weeks after he was appointed in 2017 — an event reported in the media and described in Mueller's report.
"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 wrote.
That runs counter to Mueller's nearly 450-page report, which was released in redacted form late last week. In it, Mueller detailed how McGahn received at least two phone calls with Trump in which the president "directed him to call" Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to have Mueller "removed."
The first of those calls took place on June 17, 2017, days afterThe Washington Post reported the special counsel was investigating whether Trump had obstructed justice as part of its probe into Russian election interference.
McGahn recalled Trump said something along the lines of, "You gotta do this. You gotta call Rod," Mueller's report said. McGahn said he told the president he would see what he could do and did not act on the request.
Trump followed up on the request more directly in the second call, saying something like, "Call Rod, tell Rod that Mueller has conflicts and can't be the Special Counsel" and "Mueller has to go," McGahn recalled, according to the report.
"Call me back when you do it," McGahn recalled Trump telling him, the report said.
In response, McGahn decided to resign "because he did not want to participate in events that he described as akin to the Saturday Night Massacre," Mueller wrote.
After Trump's demand was reported in the news media, he denied ever making it and insisted McGahn dispute press reports, saying he merely wanted McGahn to inform Rosenstein of Mueller's supposed conflicts of interest — conflicts that McGahn and other advisers told Trump were "silly" and "not real," the report said.
Mueller wrote that Trump's denials were "contrary to the evidence and suggest the President's awareness that the direction to McGahn could be seen as improper."
The "evidence shows that the President was not just seeking an examination of whether conflicts existed but instead was looking to use asserted conflicts as a way to terminate the Special Counsel," Mueller wrote.