President Donald Trump said he’s still open to sitting down “under certain circumstances” with Robert Mueller despite venting about the number of witnesses that the special counsel has nailed for lying.
“Everybody that looked at anybody over there, they get ’em on some kind of a lie,” Trump told reporters on Air Force One during a 25-minute gaggle.
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The remarks were the latest in a months-long tussle between Trump’s legal team and Mueller — who is investigating potential links between the Trump campaign and Russia. Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, said Thursday night that the two sides were “pretty close to an agreement” on Trump offering written responses to questions about those links.
Trump noted that George Papadopoulos, a former campaign foreign policy aide, pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. The ex-staffer is set for sentencing Friday afternoon. Trump also recalled that former national security adviser Michael Flynn copped to a lie, even though Flynn’s defenders have suggested he told the truth.
“The FBI said he didn’t lie,” Trump said, “but Mueller’s people said he did lie, so I don’t want to be set up with a perjury trap.”
Still, Trump indicated he’s still open to meeting with Mueller’s team of prosecutors. But Giuliani told POLITICO on Thursday that his team remained at odds with Mueller over whether Mueller could ask Trump about obstruction of justice and on whether Trump should be questioned in person. Mueller is also looking into whether Trump tried to impede the government’s Russia probe.
“If we’re going to meet, it’s got to be a fair meeting,” Trump said Friday, adding, “”I’d do it, but under certain circumstances.”
Trump reiterated his long-stated insistence that he had committed “no obstruction” and “no collusion” with Russians during the 2016 election. U.S. intelligence agencies have accused the Kremlin of orchestrating a digital meddling campaign intended to harm Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy while boosting Trump.
“There was no talking to Russia,” Trump said. “There was no phone calls. I didn’t make phone calls to Russia. I didn’t receive phone calls. I didn’t have meetings. I didn’t have texts. Anything.”
“I have nothing to do with Russia,” he added. “I didn’t meet with Russians because I love the United States. If I met with Russians, you people would have found out. You know everything I’m doing.”
Trump also repeatedly emphasized that Article II of the Constitution “covers everything” that Mueller is investigating. The clause outlines the powers of the executive branch, including the president.
The president also reiterated claims that Mueller — a lifelong Republican — had built a team of partisan prosecutors.
He seized on reports that Mueller deputy Andrew Weissmann had attended Hillary Clinton’s election night rally. But the president appeared to embellish the account, referring to multiple “people” at Clinton’s party.
“People that are on Mueller’s team who are there crying, they were crying,” Trump said, though there’s been no reporting to suggest that any of Mueller’s prosecutors cried at the election outcome.