WASHINGTON DC — President Donald Trump refused for the second time in the last week to say whether he would be willing to be interviewed by the investigative team led by special counsel Robert Mueller.
“We’ll see what happens,” Trump said Wednesday while taking questions alongside Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg.
Pressed again, Trump crossed his arms and said: “When they have no collusion and nobody has found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you’d even have an interview.”
Dodging the question, Trump instead offered up criticism of the allegations of collusion between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia — insisting there has been “no collusion” — and also criticized the investigations that have ensued, which Trump called “a Democrat hoax.”
“For 11 months, we’ve had this phony cloud over this administration,” Trump said.
Trump’s response Wednesday comes as his lawyers are discussing how they will respond to an interview request from Mueller, which the President’s attorneys are anticipating. Trump’s attorneys are looking for ways to limit the President’s exposure, including requesting Mueller abide by certain parameters for the interview.
Despite dodging questions this week about his willingness to be interviewed by the special counsel, Trump said in June that he was “100%” willing to testify under oath about his conversations with James Comey, the FBI director he fired.
Earlier Wednesday, Trump slammed the various investigations focused on the allegations of collusion between his campaign and the Russian government.
“The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems knows there was no collusion, & yet on and on it goes,” Trump tweeted Wednesday. “Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing. Republicans should finally take control!”
The special counsel and congressional committees investigating the matter have yet to reach a conclusion about whether any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia took place.
This was Trump’s first time before reporters since his public, freewheeling immigration negotiation with Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Tuesday. The President used the bipartisan meeting before television cameras to express his eagerness to tackle comprehensive immigration reform after agreeing to a legislative fix on DACA — signaling a break with his hard-line position on illegal immigration.
Trump, asked Wednesday about his comments, said that any immigration deal “has got to include the wall.”
“No. No. No. It has got to include the wall. We need the wall for security. We need the wall for safety. We need the wall for stopping the drugs from coming in,” Trump said when asked if he would sign a bill that didn’t include funding for the wall.
Trump’s meetings Wednesday with Solberg also shined a spotlight on his calls for NATO members to increase their defense spending. Along with most of the alliance’s members, Norway has failed to spend 2% of its GDP on defense as outlined in the alliance’s guidelines.
Still, like other US allies who share a border with Russia, Norway has been a critical US partner in guarding against Russian aggression, and relations between Norway and Russia have soured in recent years amid Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture. Norway drew a rebuke from Russia last year after it welcomed several hundred US Marines onto a base about 900 miles from the Russian border.
Asked about comments by a US general who visited the Marines stationed in Norway and predicted “there’s a war coming,” Trump said he does not expect a conflict to break out in the region.
“I think we are going to have a long period of peace. I hope we do,” Trump said. “That’s my opinion. That’s not the general’s opinion. But I think my opinion counts more right now.”