WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Friday said he has answered a set of questions from special counsel Robert Mueller “very easily,” while his lawyers signal that the president expects to turn over his written answers in the coming days.
Trump stressed that he has been “busy” and it has taken some time to complete them, but also expressed his concern about Mueller’s purpose in obtaining them.
“You always have to be careful answering questions for people who have bad intentions,” he said of the team Mueller has assembled to investigate Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and any possible coordination with Trump’s campaign. “I haven’t submitted them. I just finished them.”
The president’s comments, which he made to reporters gathered in the Oval Office for a bill signing, came after his lawyers surprisingly postponed submitting the answers as they had planned to on Thursday. Rudolph Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, told The Washington Post that the legal team was still deciding whether some of Mueller’s questions they agreed to answer in September would cause legal problems for the president.
According to people familiar with the delay, Trump’s lawyers believe they have now resolved the problem they faced.
Trump stressed Friday that he answered the questions personally, not his lawyers.
“My lawyers aren’t working on it. I’m working on it,” Trump said. “My lawyers don’t write the answers.”
The president has met with lawyers nearly every day this week in sessions to review his answers, including a four-hour session Wednesday that was frequently interrupted by other business. Trump spent more than four hours meeting with his attorneys Monday, broken up by phone calls the president had to take, and 90 minutes Wednesday night, according to people familiar with the sessions.
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Trump also was asked Friday about his recent tweets, which seemed to betray a sense of frustration, where he called the Mueller probe “illegal” and said, without evidence, that Mueller’s team was shouting at defendants.
“I’m not agitated,” he said. “It’s a hoax.”
The questions, roughly two dozen which focus on five topics, all predate Trump winning election. Trump’s lawyers have not yet agreed to answer a larger set of questions that relate to Trump’s time as president-elect and then as president, Giuliani said.
“There are some that create more issues for us legally than others,” Giuliani said Thursday. He said some were “unnecessary,” some were “possible traps,” and “we might consider some as irrelevant.”
Giuliani said the special counsel has not imposed a firm deadline, but he added that Trump’s answers could be submitted Friday. Another person familiar with the effort said they expect Trump to turn over the answers before Thanksgiving.