U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would be willing to be interviewed under oath by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
“I’m looking forward to it, actually,” Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House, said of an interview with Mueller. “I would do it under oath.”
Although Trump has pledged cooperation with Mueller’s probe before, Trump made his assertion as the White House and allies in Congress have stepped up attacks on the investigation’s credibility and Trump himself has hedged on whether he would answer questions.
More recently, Trump’s attorneys have been talking to Mueller’s team about an interview, according to sources with knowledge of the investigation. “I would like to do it as soon as possible,” Trump said.
Trump, however, said that setting a date certain for an interview would be “subject to my lawyers and all of that.” Asked whether he thought Mueller would treat him fairly, Trump replied, “We’re going to find out.”
Sources told Reuters earlier Wednesday that senior U.S. intelligence officers including CIA Director Mike Pompeo have been questioned by the special counsel’s team about whether Trump tried to obstruct justice in the Russia probe.
Such questioning is further indication that Mueller’s criminal investigation into purported Russian interference in the U.S. election and potential collusion by Trump’s campaign includes examining the president’s actions around the probe.
In his remarks to reporters on Wednesday, Trump repeated past statements that there was no collusion between the campaign and Russia and “there’s no obstruction whatsoever.”
In interviews last year with Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Admiral Mike Rogers, Mueller’s team focused on whether Trump had asked them to lean on former FBI Director James Comey, the sources said.
Comey said after he was dismissed by Trump in May that the president had fired him to try to undermine the agency’s Russia investigation. His dismissal led to Mueller’s appointment to take over the FBI probe and is central to whether Trump may have committed obstruction of justice.
Mueller also asked the officials if Trump tried to shut down intelligence investigations into Russian election meddling and into contacts between Russian officials connected with President Vladimir Putin’s government and associates of Trump or his campaign, the sources said on condition of anonymity.
Representatives for the CIA declined to comment on whether Pompeo had been interviewed.
U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the election campaign using hacking and propaganda to try to tilt the race in Trump’s favor. Russia has denied it. Trump has denied collusion with Russia and calls the probe a witch hunt. After Comey’s accusation in June about the circumstances of his firing, Trump also denied any obstruction of justice.
Former White House strategist and Trump campaign aide Steve Bannon is expected to be questioned by Mueller’s team about Flynn and Comey by the end of the month, NBC and CNN reported.
(Reporting by Roberta Rampton, Warren Strobel, Doina Chiacu and James Oliphant; Editing by Frances Kerry and Grant McCool)