President Trump declined to commit Wednesday to an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, claiming his testimony isn’t necessary for the Russia investigation he called a “Democrat hoax.”
“Certainly I’ll see what happens,” he said during a news conference following a bilateral meeting with Norway’s prime minister, Erna Solberg. “But when they have no collusion, and nobody’s found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview.”
Trump’s legal team is in early talks with federal investigators about a possible interview with the president related to the wide-ranging investigation into Russia’s election interference and possible collusion with Trump associates – but it could take weeks for both sides to agree on the scope of the interview and the logistics.
Trump noted that 2016 election opponent Hillary Clinton submitted to an interview with certain conditions, when the FBI asked about her use of private email while secretary of State.
Calling that session “ridiculous,” Trump noted that Clinton “wasn’t sworn in, she wasn’t given the oath, they didn’t take notes, they didn’t record, and it was done on the Fourth of July weekend … and a lot of people looked upon that as being a very serious breach, and it really was.”
The comments marked a departure from last June, when Trump said he would provide sworn testimony if asked.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump assailed the Russia investigation as a distraction, a waste of time and a “witch hunt” — and appeared to call on congressional Republicans to do something about it.
“The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues,” Trump tweeted. “There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes.”
While Trump suggested that congressional Republicans act more forcefully, he didn’t say how. “Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!” Trump said.
Republicans, who control both the House and Senate, are leading three separate congressional investigations into Russia’s interference in the presidential election and possible collusion with Trump associates.
While denying collusion with Russia, Trump’s tweets did not mention another aspect of an investigation led by Mueller: Claims the president sought to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation by firing FBI Director James Comey in May.
Comey later said he believes Trump fired him because he refused the president’s overtures to go easy on former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. Mueller’s office obtained a guilty plea from Flynn for lying to the FBI about contacts with the U.S. ambassador to Russia, and the former Trump aide is now cooperating with the investigation.
In June, a month after firing Comey, Trump disputed Comey’s claims.
Asked whether he would provide that denial under oath to Mueller, Trump told reporters: “100 percent … I would be glad to tell him exactly what I just told you.”
Trump has said Democrats and other critics are using Russia as excuse for Hillary Clinton’s loss in the 2016 election, and unfairly trying to tie the president to Russians who hacked Democratic emails and promoted “fake news” about Clinton.
Democrats said Trump is trying to block the investigation, citing his call to Republicans to “take control” of it.
“It’s a novel strategy for the subject of an obstruction of justice investigation to publicly call for more obstruction of justice, but who am I to judge?” said Matthew Miller, a Justice Department spokesman during former president Barack Obama’s administration.
Also during the news conference, Trump pledged not to sign an immigration bill unless it includes money for his proposed wall along the U.S. Mexico border. “It’s got to include the wall. We need the wall for security … Any solution has to include the wall, because. without the wall, it all doesn’t work.”
And he did not rule out having the U.S. rejoin the Paris climate change agreement. Norway is a major supporter of the international pact, but Trump said the proposed restrictions on energy use hurt American businesses.