President Donald Trump has dismissed as "fake news" a New York Times report that he ordered the firing of special counsel Robert Mueller last June, but backed down after White House lawyer Don McGahn threatened to resign.
The newspaper reported on Thursday that President Trump demanded Mr Mueller’s firing just weeks after the special counsel was first appointed by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
President Trump hit back at the report, without addressing the specific allegation, as he arrived on Friday at the site of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
"Fake news, folks. Fake news. Typical New York Times fake stories," President Trump told reporters.
Mr McGahn said he would not deliver the order to the Justice Department, according to The Times, which cites four people familiar with the request by the president.
President Trump argued at the time that Mr Mueller could not be fair because of a dispute over golf club fees that he said Mr Mueller owed at a Trump golf club in Sterling, Virginia.
The president also believed Mr Mueller had a conflict of interest because he worked for the same law firm that was representing his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner.
Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mr Mueller, did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday night.
Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer working on the response to the Russia probe, declined to comment on Thursday night.
The response from Democrats was nearly immediate. Sen Mark Warner, vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said that if the report in The Times is true, President Trump has crossed a "red line."
"Any attempt to remove the Special Counsel, pardon key witnesses or otherwise interfere in the investigation would be a gross abuse of power, and all members of Congress, from both parties, have a responsibility to our Constitution and to our country to make that clear immediately," Sen Warner said.