Donald Trump reportedly talked about Robert Mueller's Russia investigation with multiple key witnesses

President reportedly asked former chief of staff about his interview with investigators

Emily Shugerman
New York
Thursday 08 March 2018 18:33 GMT
Reince Priebus looks on as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to greet Bob Woodson, president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise
Reince Priebus looks on as President-elect Donald Trump prepares to greet Bob Woodson, president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Donald Trump reportedly talked to multiple witnesses in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation about his probe into possible Trump campaign ties to Russia.

Mr Trump quizzed former chief of staff Reince Priebus about his interview with investigators, and asked White House counsel Don McGahn to deny damaging reports about the investigation, according to the New York Times.

The conversations are likely not illegal, but could add fire to Mr Mueller’s investigation into whether the president attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation.

Mr Trump asked Mr Priebus about his interview with investigators when he visited the White House in December, people with knowledge of the investigation told the Times. Mr Trump reportedly wanted to know how the interview went, and if the investigators were “nice”.

Mr Priebus told Mr Trump that the interviewers were “courteous and professional” but did not go into specifics of what they asked, according to the sources.

Mr Trump also reportedly asked Mr McGahn, one of this longest-serving aides, to publicly refute an article about the investigation in the Times. The Times report claimed Mr McGahn had threatened to resign when the president told him to fire Mr Mueller.

Mr Trump dismissed the report as “fake news” at the time. But according to two sources with knowledge of the situation, then-White House staff secretary Rob Porter confronted Mr McGhan after the article was published. He told the White House counsel that said Mr Trump wanted him to issue a statement denying the reports, and that he would "get rid" of him if he didn't.

Mr McGahn refused to comply with the order, leading to a heated conversation with Mr Trump in the Oval Office, according to the sources. Mr McGhan never released the statement, and remains as White House counsel.

William Burck, the attorney for Mr McGahn and Mr Priebus, denied to comment on the situation. The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

Donald Trump says he doesn't intend to fire Robert Mueller

The incidents are interesting in light of Mr Mueller’s probe into whether Mr Trump attempted to obstruct the Russia investigation. Experts interviewed by the Times said these interactions would likely drive Mr Mueller to further probe Mr Trump’s interactions with other witnesses.

Former FBI Director James Comey told Congress in June that Mr Trump had asked him to pledge his loyalty, and to end the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Mr Trump denies this occurred.

Mr Comey said he did not comply with either of the president’s requests. He was ultimately fired.

Mr Trump also reportedly told Mr Comey that the Russia investigation was a “cloud” over his presidency, and asked him what he could do to “lift the cloud". The Times also reported that Mr Trump asked Mr McGahn to stop Jeff Sessions from recusing himself from the Russia investigation, saying he needed his attorney general to protect him.

Mr Trump’s attorneys have said the president fully cooperated with the investigation.

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