Politics Trump walks back his willingness to testify in the Russia investigation

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President Trump said last year that he would be "100%" open to testifying under oath in the Russia probe.

Donald Trump play

Donald Trump

(Thomson Reuters)
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  • President Donald Trump said Wednesday that "we'll see what happens" in response to a question about whether he would sit down for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigation Russian election interference.
  • The comment marks a departure from what Trump said last June, which is that he would be "100 percent" open to testifying in the Russia investigation.
  • The comments come amid reports that Trump's legal team is preparing a response to a possible interview request from Mueller's team.

President Donald Trump said during a joint press conference with the Norwegian prime minister on Wednesday that he would "see what happens" if he were asked to interview with special counsel Robert Mueller.

Fox News White House correspondent John Roberts asked Trump about recent reports that his legal team is working out how to respond to Mueller's potential request to interview Trump as part of the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mueller is also looking at whether members of the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to tilt the race in his favor, and whether Trump sought to obstruct justice when he fired FBI director James Comey last May.

When Roberts asked Trump whether he would be open to meeting with Mueller "without condition" or only do so under strict limitations on the scope of questioning, Trump responded that because there was "no collusion," it would be "unlikely that you'd even have an interview."

The remarks mark a turning point from Trump's statement last June, when he said that he would be "100%" willing to testify under oath about his conversations with Comey.

Trump again put the focus on Hillary Clinton

Trump also railed against a frequent target, former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. After saying, without evidence, that Clinton colluded with the Russians, Trump added, "When you talk about interviews, Hillary Clinton had an interview where she wasn't sworn in, she wasn't given the oath, they didn't take notes, they didn't record and it was done on the Fourth of July weekend."

"That's ridiculous," he said, "and a lot of people looked upon that as being a very serious breach, and it really was."

The FBI began investigating Clinton in 2015 over her use of a private email server to conduct government business when she served as secretary of state. Comey said in a statement last summer that although Clinton's behavior had been "extremely careless," the bureau would not recommend criminal charges be brought against her.

The Department of Justice, headed by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, reopened the investigation on January 4.

Trump, who kicked Wednesday off by railing against the Russia "witch hunt," said during the press conference that the investigation has been a "phony cloud over this administration, over our government."

He also called it a "Democrat hoax that was brought up as an excuse for losing an election that, frankly, the Democrats should have won because they have such a tremendous advantage in the Electoral College."

"But it has been determined that there was no collusion, and by virtually everybody, so we'll see what happens," he added.

Mueller's investigation, as well as several House and Senate probes into Russia's election meddling, are still ongoing and have yielded no conclusive results. So far, four individuals in Trump's orbit have been charged as part of Mueller's investigation — former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former campaign adviser and longtime Manafort associate Rick Gates, early foreign-policy adviser George Papadopoulos, and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Papadopoulos and Flynn each pleaded guilty to one count of making false statements to investigators about their Russia contacts. Manafort and Gates pleaded not guilty to 12 counts including money laundering, tax fraud, failing to register as foreign agents, and conspiracy against the US.

When he was asked whether he'd be open to sitting down with Mueller for an interview, Trump again responded, "We'll see what happens."

"I mean, certainly, I'll see what happens," he said. "But when they have no collusion and nobody's found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview."