U.S. President Donald Trump said Friday he had personally written—though not yet submitted—answers to the questions put to the White House by Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, while once more assailing the probe as a “witch hunt.”
Trump ended months of speculation on whether he would respond to questions from the special counsel, who is investigating whether the president’s 2016 election campaign colluded with Russians and if Trump illegally obstructed the probe. “I answered the questions very easily,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “I haven’t submitted them yet. I just finished them. As you know, I’ve been a bit busy.”
“The questions were very routinely answered by me,” Trump added. “I don’t need lawyers to do them. You need lawyers to go over some of the answers. They were not very difficult questions.”
Trump went on to dismiss the investigation, which he has repeatedly called illegal and threatened to shut down, attacking it this week as a national “disgrace.”
“There should have never been any Mueller investigation because there was never anything done wrong. There was no collusion,” he said. “The witch hunt, as I call it, should never have taken place. It continues to go on. I imagine it’s ending now.”
The confirmation came nine days after Trump installed a new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, who has been strongly critical of Mueller and suggested cutting the probe’s purse-strings to make it difficult to continue.
Whitaker replaced Jeff Sessions, who had incurred Trump’s wrath after recusing himself of oversight of Mueller, allowing, in Trump’s view, the investigators to probe too far. Critics fear Whitaker will interfere with the investigation and provide the White House inside information on its activities to help protect the president, who if accused by Mueller of obstruction could face impeachment.
Early this year Mueller’s team of investigators submitted a long list of questions to the White House that indicated interest in both the allegations of collusion and obstruction. Since then the two sides have reportedly jousted over whether the president had to answer and how he would do so—including the possibility that he would submit to a face-to-face interview with prosecutors.
Trump’s lawyers have said Mueller is seeking to trap Trump in a minor lie to be able to accuse him of perjury.
“I’m sure they are tricked up because they like to catch people—was the weather sunny or rainy,” Trump said Friday of the questions. “You have to be careful with people who have bad intentions.”
Mueller has already indicted and secured guilty pleas from several former close aides to Trump, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort. And in a case spun off by Mueller, Michael Cohen, who was the billionaire developer’s vice president and fixer at the Trump Organization, pleaded guilty in New York to charges related to hush payments made to women who claimed affairs with Trump.
All three have since been assisting in the 18-month-old investigation.
In recent weeks speculation has grown that Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr. and campaign consultant Roger Stone could face charges. But the tight-lipped Mueller has not given any sign of whether Trump is regarded more as a witness or a target of the investigation.
On Thursday the president let loose a tirade against Mueller on Twitter, alleging the investigation by the former FBI director was politically biased and had used threats against witnesses. “They have found no collusion and have gone absolutely nuts. They are screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want,” he wrote. “They are a disgrace to our Nation and don’t care how many lives they ruin.”