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Trump claims he didn’t try to fire Mueller because firing people is bad

"I'm a student of history."

President Donald Trump on Friday claimed that he did not order Mueller's firing.
President Donald Trump on Friday claimed that he did not order Mueller's firing, saying firing people was "not good." (PHOTO CREDIT: Fox News screenshot)

President Donald Trump, who often boasts of firing his underlings and once approvingly quoted a fan calling him the “‘you’re fired’ president,” claimed on Friday that he couldn’t have possibly ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller because, as a “student of history,” he was smart enough to know that firings are bad.

Trump was referring to details outlined in Mueller’s report, made public last week, that showed Trump tried repeatedly to remove the special counsel from the Russia investigation, in one instance demanding then-White House Counsel Don McGahn carry out the deed. McGahn threatened to quit over the request, forcing Trump to back down.

Trump disputed this allegation on Friday, telling reporters the incident never happened, despite the fact that McGahn made the admission himself, under oath, to federal investigators.

“Frankly, whether I did or [McGahn] did, we had the absolute right to fire Mueller. In the meantime, I didn’t do it,” he proclaimed.

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He continued, “I’m a student of history. I see what you get when you fire people and it is not good. But there would have been nothing wrong with firing him. Legally, I had absolute right to fire but I never told Don McGahn to fire Mueller.”

Under the law, only Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who served as acting attorney general over the Russia investigation after former Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself, had the power to fire Mueller, not the White House counsel or — according to some experts — the president.

Trump’s assertion that firing people is “not good” and that this fact prevented him from dismissing Mueller is contradicted by his own record. One of his first acts as president was to fire acting Attorney General Sally Yates, setting up the eventual installation of Rosenstein at the Justice Department. Months later, he fired former FBI Director James Comey — who was overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 elections at the time — a move that precipitated Mueller’s appointment the following week.

Trump has bragged about firing Comey on multiple occasions, telling NBC News’ Lester Holt, days after the fact, that he had dismissed the former FBI chief over “this Russia thing.”

Trump has fired several of his own administrative appointees, including Cabinet secretaries. Often they have learned of their dismissal through the president’s tweets.

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Trump has also bragged on Twitter about firing other FBI agents involved in the Russia investigation; dismissing Omarosa Manigault Newman, communications director in the Office of Public Liaison; and firing former chief strategist and campaign chief Steve Bannon, among others.

Much of Trump’s national celebrity came from hosting an NBC competition show called The Apprentice and its Celebrity Apprentice spin-off. Each episode ended with him pointing at a contestant and telling them, “You’re fired.”