US President Donald Trump expressed concerns on Monday that any statement made to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading a probe into Russian election meddling, could be used to charge him with perjury.
In a wide-ranging interview to Reuters news agency, Trump echoed similar concerns from his lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who is negotiating terms for a possible interview and warned it could be a “perjury trap.”
Trump said that his statements could be used against him if they are contrasted to others who have testified to investigators, including former FBI Director James Comey, who the president fired.
“So if I say something and he [Comey] says somethings, and it’s my word against his, and he’s best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: ‘Well, I believe Comey,’ and even if I’m telling the truth, that makes me a liar,” Trump said.
Trump: ‘I could run’ the probe
During the interview, Trump said he had the power to intervene in the probe, but had decided against doing so for the moment.
“I can go in, and I could do whatever — I could run it if I want. But I decided to stay out,” Trump said. “I’m totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven’t chosen to be involved. I’ll stay out.”
The president has repeatedly attacked Mueller and his probe into whether Russia coordinated with the Trump campaign during the 2016 presidential elections.
On Monday, he described Mueller in a tweet as “disgraced and discredited,” accusing the former FBI director of “enjoying ruining people’s lives.”
Trump campaign in crosshairs
Trump’s comments come as a jury deliberates on whether Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort is guilty of banking fraud and failure to pay taxes on tens of millions of dollars he earned while consulting Russian-backed politicians in Ukraine.
If Manafort is found guilty, he would be the first campaign official to do so as a result of the probe. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.
Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has also been targeted by the probe. Although Cohen said he would “take a bullet” for Trump, observers believe he is likely to collaborate with Mueller’s probe.
The full interview with Trump touched on a range of other topics, including North Korea, Turkey, China, Russia, and the US Federal Reserve’s decision to raise interest rates.
ls/msh (Reuters, AP, AFP)
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