President Donald Trump is reportedly pushing for an interview with Robert Mueller despite his lawyers’ advice, believing that he can convince the special counsel that the FBI investigation into Russian election meddling and possible collusion with Trump campaign officials is a “witch hunt”.
Mr Mueller has been negotiating with the president's legal team for months in hopes of securing an interview. The special counsel reportedly wants to question Mr Trump about his associates’ possible coordination with Moscow – and his own possible obstruction of justice – as the final stage in his probe.
The two teams have been negotiating both the scope and form of the interview, with Mr Mueller pushing for an in-person question-and-answer session and the president's advisers advocating for written responses.
Mr Mueller sent his latest proposal to the White House on Tuesday, according to the New York Times, saying he would accept some written responses from the president if in-person follow-up questions were allowed.
Mr Trump’s lawyers disliked the idea of in-person follow-ups, according to the Times, and were prepared to take the matter to court. But Mr Trump urged his team to keep negotiating, convinced that he could show Mr Mueller’s team he did nothing wrong.
The president has strenuously maintained his innocence throughout the investigation, and repeatedly urged Mr Mueller’s team to wrap it up quickly. He aired his frustrations with the investigation on Wednesday, tweeting what many saw as an order to his attorney general to shut down the probe.
“This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this Rigged Witch Hunt right now, before it continues to stain our country any further,” the president wrote. “Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 Angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA!”
Mr Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe in March of last year. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Wednesday that Mr Trump was not ordering the attorney general to take action, but instead simply expressing his opinion.
“It is ridiculous all the dishonesty that’s gone on, and the president has watched this process play out, but also wants to see this come to an end,” she told reporters.
The Russia investigation has received renewed attention of late, as the trial begins for Paul Manafort – one of 32 people and three companies from which Mr Mueller has secured charges or guilty pleas.
Mr Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, is charged with tax evasion, bank fraud, conspiracy against the US, and other crimes. The majority of the charges stem from his work as a political consultant in Ukraine. Mr Manafort has pleaded not guilty to all charges.