Trump says he ‘easily’ answered Russia probe questions

Monday, 19 Nov, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump said that he has just finished writing answers to questions from Special Counsel Robert Mueller but hasn't submitted them yet. He called the Mueller probe "illegal" and said, without evidence, that Mueller's team was "screaming and shouting at people, horribly threatening them to come up with the answers they want".

The source would not explicitly say whether the President answered those questions other than to say that there are "responses" to all of the questions that were asked.

With the midterm elections now over, Mueller faces key decision points in his 18-month-old investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 campaign - a probe that has led to charges against 32 people, including 26 Russians.

Trump and his lawyers had been in negotiations with Mueller's team for months over how the president would be questioned as part of the investigation.

The special counsel has signalled a willingness to accept written answers on matters related to collusion with Russian Federation.

Though he spent hours with his attorneys, Mr. Trump on Friday insisted: "My lawyers don't write answers, I write answers". Adding to his grim outlook has been the barrage of criticism he's getting over his choice for acting attorney general and late-arriving election results that have largely been tipping toward House Democrats.

On Thursday the president let loose a tirade against Mueller on Twitter, alleging the investigation by the former FBI director was politically biased and had used threats against witnesses. He also suggested that Mueller's team don't care "how many lives they can ruin".

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Rumors are reverberating that Mueller may be preparing more indictments and there has been widespread media coverage of two Trump allies - Roger Stone and Jerome Corsi - who say they expect to be charged. Trump also told reporters Saturday that a sit-down interview with investigators hadn't been discussed.

Tensions have risen even higher over the probe since Trump last week ousted Jeff Sessions as attorney general and named Matthew Whitaker as his replacement on an acting basis.

The special counsel's office and the Justice Department hadn't made any comment on Friday as Washington waited on tenterhooks for the next milestone in the saga.

A list of questions provided to Trump's legal team in the spring by the special counsel included questions about efforts during the transition to establish a backchannel line of communication to Russian Federation and a 2017 meeting in the Seychelles involving Trump ally Erik Prince, a businessman and founder of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.

"The inner workings of the Mueller investigation are a total mess". That move gave Whitaker, a Trump loyalist, oversight of the Mueller probe rather than Rod Rosenstein, the department's No. 2 official who previously had authority over it. Cohen has pleaded guilty to a series of crimes and has said under oath that Trump ordered him to make hush-money payments to cover up an affair.

"We do that next week", he said, in what signals a new phase of the inquiry.