As former special counsel Robert Mueller was at the height of his investigation into possible coordination between the 2016 Donald Trump campaign and Russia, and Trump’s attempts to obstruct that investigation, Trump claimed he was willing to sit with Mueller’s team for an interview. In fact, in April of last year, Trump claimed that “Nobody wants to speak more than me,” according to a USA Today report.
But in his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, Mueller testified that Trump, in fact, refused repeated attempts to interview him — for more than a full year, as CNN reported. Under questioning from the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerrold Nadler, Mueller also said that he had informed Trump, through the president’s legal team, that the interview would be “vital” to the investigation.
Nadler asked Mueller if he told Trump’s lawyers that “it is the interest of the Presidency and public for an interview to take place,” to which Mueller replied “yes.”
But even at the time that Mueller was repeatedly requesting an interview with Trump and receiving multiple refusals, Trump publicly stated that he would be willing not only to speak to Mueller, but would do so “under oath,” according to an NBC News report.
“I would love to do that,” Trump said in January of 2018. “I’d like to do it as soon as possible.”
In his opening statement, prior to taking questions from members of the Judiciary Committee, Mueller emphasized what he saw as the seriousness of his investigation, calling Russia’s attempts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election “among the most serious” threats the United States had ever faced during the course of his career, according to a USA Today report.
Under questioning from California Representative Zoe Lofgren, Mueller also said that the Russians favored Trump’s candidacy, according to a CNN account of the hearing.
Lofgren asked Mueller if it was true that “the Russian government perceived it would benefit from one of the candidates winning.” Mueller agreed that the statement was true. When asked by Lofgren which candidate the Russian government preferred, Mueller said, “Well, it would be Trump.”
But much of Mueller’s testimony consisted simply of the former special counsel referring members of Congress back to his report, which may be read online via The New York Times.
According to a count by CNN, as of 10:30 a.m EST on Wednesday, two hours into the hearing, Mueller had already told his questioners to refer to the report a total of 28 times.