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Trump Says He Is Unlikely to Agree to Sit-Down Interview in Mueller Probe

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 11/18/2018
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President Donald Trump said he probably wouldn’t agree to a sit-down interview with investigators probing Russian election interference, saying his written responses to the Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s questions would probably be “the end.”

Asked in a Fox interview if it was his final position that there would be no sit-down with Mr. Mueller, Mr. Trump responded: “Probably. I mean, I can change my mind, but probably.”

Mr. Trump said he has completed his written answers, and they be will provided to the special counsel “very soon.”

“We gave very, very complete answers to a lot of questions that I shouldn’t have even been asked, and I think that should solve the problem. I hope it solves the problem,” Mr. Trump said. “If it doesn’t, you know, I’ll be told and we’ll make a decision at that time. But probably this is the end.”

Mr. Trump also said he wouldn’t get involved in decisions about the Mueller probe, which he has heavily criticized since its inception last year. He also said he didn’t know that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, who now oversees the special counsel, had been critical of Mr. Mueller before his appointment.

The comments come as Mr. Trump’s lawyers are preparing to submit written answers this week to the special counsel’s office about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election, which Mr. Trump has repeatedly denied. Mr. Trump also said Sunday he probably wouldn’t submit written answers related to possible obstruction of justice. Moscow has denied any election interference.

For nearly a year, Mr. Trump’s legal team has delayed timelines in which they would respond to the questions or decide whether the president would agree to a sit-down interview. This spring, lawyers for the president said they expected an interview to happen in mid-July, if Mr. Trump agreed to one, but he didn’t.

If Mr. Trump doesn’t agree to an interview, Mr. Mueller will have to decide how to respond. Mr. Whitaker, as acting attorney general, could conclude that investigative actions by Mr. Mueller shouldn’t be pursued. Mr. Whitaker publicly criticized the probe while serving as chief of staff to former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who Mr. Trump fired after last week’s elections. 

Democrats have pointed to Mr. Whitaker’s criticism to allege he was appointed to curtail Mr. Mueller’s investigation. Rep. Adam Schiff (D., Calif.), who is expected to become chairman of the House Intelligence Committee when Democrats regain control of the House in January, alleged Sunday that Mr. Whitaker “was chosen for the purpose of interfering with the Mueller investigation.”

Mr. Trump said he wasn’t aware of the criticism when he appointed Mr. Whitaker.

“I did not know he took views on the Mueller investigation as such,” Mr. Trump said.

He added that it would be up to Mr. Whitaker to make decisions related to the investigation. “I would not get involved,” Mr. Trump said.

Some lawmakers are also pushing for a vote on legislation protecting Mr. Mueller from interference. Sen. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.), who is retiring in January, said he would like to see such language included in a year-end spending bill.

“How in the world my colleagues don’t see this as a priority now, I don’t understand,” Mr. Flake said on CNN on Sunday.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.), the likely next chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on NBC that he supported calling a vote on legislation protecting Mr. Mueller.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) last week blocked a bill designed to protect Mr. Mueller. Mr. McConnell controls the Senate floor and has argued that Mr. Mueller isn’t in danger. Also, some lawmakers and legal scholars have expressed concerns about the bill’s constitutionality.

Mr. Schiff said Democrats will be watching the probe closely even if such legislation doesn’t pass. “If [Mr. Whitaker] takes any action to curb what Mr. Mueller does, we are going to find out about it. We are going to expose it,” Mr. Schiff said Sunday on ABC.

Write to Gabriel T. Rubin at gabriel.rubin@wsj.com and Ryan Tracy at ryan.tracy@wsj.com

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