Trump denies ordering Robert Mueller to be fired to stop report derailing presidency but insists he had 'legal right to do so'

Tom Batchelor
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Donald Trump has denied ordering a former White House lawyer to fire Robert Mueller – the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election – despite his report into alleged Kremlin meddling suggesting the president had done just that.

Mr Trump said he had the "legal right" to sack Mr Mueller, whose report concluded last week that there was not enough evidence to establish that the president's election campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow, but chose not to.

The president was referring to a claim in the 448-page, partially redacted Mueller report that he had instructed his former counsel, Don McGahn, to remove the man heading the investigation.

"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," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter. "If I wanted to fire Mueller, I didn't need McGahn to do it, I could have done it myself.

"Nevertheless, 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."

An account in the Mueller report suggests that in June 2017, Mr Trump called Mr McGahn to say he should tell Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to remove the special counsel because he had conflicts of interest.

Mr Trump also failed to get Mr McGahn to dispute media reports circulating at the time that the president tried to fire Mr Mueller, the report said.

Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said those actions could constitute obstruction of justice, as Mr McGahn "would be able to testify that he was asked to do it and then asked not to tell anyone what he had been asked to do".

The Democratic chairman of the House judiciary panel has also issued a subpoena for Mr McGahn to testify and provide documents to the committee.

It is unclear whether the White House will comply with the request.

Mr Trump has repeatedly denied any collusion with Moscow or obstructing those tasked with investigating it.

He has also has vowed to fight every subpoena from House Democrats probing his administration.

The Mueller report uncovered numerous links between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, and described how Mr Trump tried to impede the investigation.

The probe built a case indicating Mr Trump had committed obstruction of justice.

While it stopped short of concluding the president had committed a crime, it also did not exonerate him.