President Donald Trump is denying that former Chief of Staff John Kelly ever warned him that he would be impeached if he hired a lackey to replace the former four-star general.
"John Kelly never said that, he never said anything like that," Trump said in a statement Saturday after Kelly discussed his warning. "If he would have said that I would have thrown him out of the office. He just wants to come back into the action like everybody else does."
Kelly resigned Jan. 2 and was replaced by Mick Mulvaney, an acting chief of staff whose tenure is clouded by an Oct. 17 news conference in which his main talking points — that next year's Group of Seven summit would be hosted at Trump's Miami resort and that the president held up aid to Ukraine to pressure the country to investigate a political rival — were essentially walked back.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Kelly said Saturday that before departing the White House he privately told Trump not to hire a "yes man."
"I said, whatever you do, don't hire a 'yes man,' someone who won’t tell you the truth. Don’t do that. Because if you do, I believe you will be impeached," Kelly said at the conservative Washington Examiner Political Summit.
Kelly said he warned the president not to hire a lackey to run his staff.
"Don't hire someone that will just, you know, nod and say, 'You know, that’s a great idea Mr. President,'" he told the partisan crowd. "'Because you will be impeached.'"
The president's press secretary also fired back at Kelly.
"I worked with John Kelly, and he was totally unequipped to handle the genius of our great President," Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Saturday.
On Sept. 24, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a formal impeachment inquiry, saying that the president’s growing Ukraine scandal marked a “breach of his Constitutional responsibilities."
The House impeachment inquiry is focused on accusations that Trump withheld aid to Ukraine to pressure officials there to investigate the son of political rival Joe Biden.
Dennis Romero writes for NBC News and is based in Los Angeles.