President pledges 100% cooperation with Russia probe
President Donald Trump said Saturday that “everything I’ve done is 100 percent proper” regarding the special counsel’s investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election, and he insisted his campaign didn’t collude with Moscow or commit any crime.
His team has been “open” with special counsel Robert Mueller and “done nothing wrong,” Trump told reporters at Camp David.
He bemoaned the unrelenting focus on alleged Russia ties, saying the probe is “very, very bad for our country. It’s making our country look foolish and this is a country that I don’t want looking foolish, and it’s not going to look foolish as long as I’m here.”
A number of news outlets, including The Associated Press, have reported that Trump directed his White House counsel to tell Attorney General Jeff Sessions not to withdraw from the Justice Department’s investigation into potential ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Sessions’ decision to step away prompted Mueller’s appointment.
Trump told reporters at Camp David that The New York Times story first reporting the request was “way off, or at least off,” – though he wouldn’t say how.
He added: “Everything that I’ve done is 100 percent proper. That’s what I do, is I do things properly.”
Despite his anger over Sessions’ withdrawal from the investigation, Trump said he stands by the embattled Sessions, a vocal and loyal supporter of his election bid.
The investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia already includes a close look at whether Trump’s actions as president constitute an effort to impede that investigation. Those actions the firing of FBI Director James Comey, an allegation by Comey that Trump encouraged him to end an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn and the president’s role in drafting an incomplete and potentially misleading statement about a 2016 meeting with Russians.
The latest revelation, that Trump directed White House counsel Don McGahn to tell Sessions not to step aside from the Russia investigation, is known to Mueller’s investigators, who have interviewed many current and former executive branch officials.
Three people familiar with the matter confirmed to The Associated Press that McGahn spoke with Sessions just before he announced his recusal to urge him not to do so.
It remains unclear whether Mueller’s team has evidence to establish that the president’s collective actions were done with the corrupt intent needed to prove obstruction of justice.
Trump and his lawyers have repeatedly maintained that he did nothing improper and that, as president, he had unequivocal authority to fire Comey and to take other actions.
In stepping aside from the probe in March, Sessions said it was not appropriate for him to oversee any investigation into a campaign of which he was an active supporter.