Mueller report: Trump provided only written answers

President escaped subpoena forcing him to testify as Mueller wary of ‘substantial delay’

Mueller report: Donald Trump says he did not recall knowing about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower when top members of his campaign met a Kremlin-linked lawyer to discuss possible dirt on rival Hillary Clinton. Photograph: AP

Mueller report: Donald Trump says he did not recall knowing about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower when top members of his campaign met a Kremlin-linked lawyer to discuss possible dirt on rival Hillary Clinton. Photograph: AP

 

US president Donald Trump escaped a subpoena forcing him to testify because Robert Mueller’s office was wary of the “substantial delay” a legal battle would cause.

The president avoided being subpoenaed despite offering only written answers that the special counsel determined to be “inadequate”.

Mr Mueller’s decision to forgo a court fight to compel the president’s testimony may be one of Mr Trump’s biggest victories during the inquiry and came despite the president frustrating investigators by saying more than two dozen times in his written responses that he did not recall or remember critical events during and after his presidential campaign.

“We made that decision in view of the substantial delay that such an investigative step would likely produce at a late stage in our investigation,” according to the special counsel’s report released by on Thursday.

“We also assessed that based on the significant body of evidence we had already obtained of the president’s actions and his public and private statements describing or explaining those actions, we had sufficient evidence to understand relevant events and to make certain assessments without the president’s testimony.”

That includes Mr Trump saying he did not recall knowing about the now-famous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower when top members of his campaign met a Kremlin-linked lawyer to discuss possible dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton.

‘Busy Months’

“This was one of many busy months during a fast-paced campaign,” Mr Trump explains in his written response, which was included in the redacted version of the investigation’s report.

Mr Trump did say his desk calendar indicates he met Paul Manafort the morning of the meeting with Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya. Attendees at the meeting, which included Manafort as well as the president’s son Donald Trump jnr and son-in-law Jared Kushner, subsequently said nothing came of the meeting.

Mr Trump also said he could not recall knowledge of the hacking and release of emails belonging to Democratic officials before they were publicly reported, and says he does not recall anyone associated with his campaign being in contact with WikiLeaks. He also says he does not remember being told that longtime adviser Roger Stone had been in contact with WikiLeaks, or that anyone associated with his campaign had discussions with any entities regarding the timing or release of hacked emails. And Mr Trump says he does not remember having any discussion during the campaign about offering a pardon to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

‘In Jest’

At some points, Mr Trump defends his actions as motivated by campaign strategy or humour. In response to a question about a speech in which Mr Trump called on Russia to release emails Mrs Clinton sent during her tenure at the State Department, the president wrote that he was speaking “in jest and sarcastically”.

But more frequently, he says simply that he does not recall involvement in events. For instance, Mr Trump says he does not remember being involved in changing language in the Republican Party platform that watered down support for arming Ukraine. And he believes he learned about it from media reporting. Critics have suggested the softening of the language in the platform adopted at the Republican convention was evidence of an attempt to help Russian president Vladimir Putin, but the president had previously denied being personally involved in the effort.

Moscow Project

Mr Trump also downplayed his involvement in developing a Trump Organization project in Moscow. His personal attorney, Michael Cohen, said he lied to Congress about work on the Russia project so that his comments would align with his boss and other campaign officials who insisted publicly he had no business in the country.

Mr Trump says his conversations with Mr Cohen about the Moscow project were “not memorable” and that he was “not enthused about the proposal”. He says he “vaguely” remembers press inquiries about the incident and says he likely spoke with campaign staff or Trump Organization employees about how to respond but could not remember any particular conversation.

Mr Trump also says he cannot recall being told during the campaign of efforts by Russian officials to meet him. And he says he cannot remember Manafort telling him about particular policy positions Russia would want the US to support. – Bloomberg