WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump is denying that he ordered White House Counsel Donald McGahn to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, to thwart Mueller's investigation into Trump campaign links to Russia in the 2016 election.
'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 said Thursday on Twitter. 'If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didnt need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself.'
In his 448-page report released a week ago, Mueller said that Trump called McGahn twice at home in June 2017 and 'directed him to have the special counsel removed.' But Mueller said McGahn, who served as Trump's White House lawyer for 21 months before leaving last October, 'was perturbed' by Trump's demand and 'did not intend to act on the request.'
Trump's broadside against the Mueller report is part of his growing anger at the prosecutor's portrayal of his presidency after initially claiming the report exonerated him of wrongdoing. Opposition Democrats in Congress have launched several investigations of Trump's actions as president, his successful presidential campaign and his personal and business taxes, some of it based on Mueller's findings after a 22-month investigation.
But Trump is vowing to try to block all efforts to investigate him, saying, 'We're fighting all the subpoenas,' among them one for McGahn to testify about his dealings with Trump.
Trump, in one of three tweets, said, 'Mueller was NOT fired and was respectfully allowed to finish his work on what I, and many others, say was an illegal investigation (there was no crime), headed by a Trump hater who was highly conflicted, and a group of 18 VERY ANGRY Democrats.'
The U.S. leader concluded, 'Despite the fact that the Mueller Report was 'composed' by Trump Haters and Angry Democrats, who had unlimited funds and human resources, the end result was No Collusion, No Obstruction. Amazing!'
Trump's assessment of the report is partly at odds with what Mueller found.
The prosecutor concluded that neither Trump nor his campaign, despite numerous contacts with Russian operatives, conspired with Russians to help him defeat his Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton. The prosecutor, however, cited 11 instances of possible obstruction of justice by Trump, but reached no conclusion on whether he had broken the law.
Mueller said in his report that, 'If we had confidence after a thorough investigation of the facts that the President clearly did not commit obstruction of justice, we would so state. Based on the facts and the applicable legal standards, however, we are unable to reach that judgment.
'The evidence we obtained about the President's actions and intent presents difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.' It added that, 'Accordingly, while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.'
With Mueller reaching no decision on the obstruction question, Attorney General William Barr decided that such charges against Trump were not warranted.
Mueller concluded, 'The President's efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.'
The prosecutor noted that aside from McGahn not acceding to Trump's demand to oust Mueller, James Comey, the former Federal Bureau of Investigation director whom Trump eventually fired, did not carry out Trump's request that he abandon the investigation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn's contacts with the then-Russian ambassador to Washington.
Mueller said other presidential aides also did not carry out Trump's demands to tell then-attorney general Jeff Sessions to limit the Russia investigation to future election meddling, not the 2016 election. The Mueller report said McGahn 'refused to recede from his recollections about events surrounding the President's direction to have the Special Counsel removed, despite the President's multiple demands that he do so.'