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Trump-Russia collusion investigations

Donald Trump claims he had a ‘very nasty’ business relationship with Robert Mueller

US president makes one of his most direct attacks on the special counsel and his ‘conflicts of interest’, citing a supposed business relationship that may be a reference to Mueller’s former membership of a Trump golf club

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 5:38am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 July, 2018, 10:12pm

President Donald Trump said he had a nasty and contentious business relationship with Robert Mueller, and called on the special counsel to disclose such “conflicts of interest” in one of his most direct attacks on the probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Trump did not say what those conflicts were, but said he turned down Mueller to lead the FBI for a second time before Mueller was appointed special counsel, and that James Comey, whom Trump fired as FBI chief, is Mueller’s “close friend”.

“Is Robert Mueller ever going to release his conflicts of interest with respect to President Trump, including the fact that we had a very nasty & contentious business relationship,” Trump said in a tweet on Sunday, one of many in an active day on Twitter complaining about the investigation and press coverage.

Trump said in a follow-up tweet that Mueller, who led the FBI from 2001 to 2013 and is known to be a lifelong Republican, only appointed as prosecutors “angry” Democrats who have contributed to or previously supported Democrats, and is failing to investigate Democrats.

The Washington Post reported in July 2017, citing two unnamed White House advisers, that Mueller and the Trump National Golf Club in Virginia had a dispute over fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011.

A spokesman for Mueller said there was no dispute when Mueller, who was FBI director at the time, left the club, the newspaper said.

The president’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, also appeared on two Sunday political shows to deny a report that Trump knew about a 2016 meeting between his campaign and Russians that is a central focus of the probe.

CNN reported on July 26 that Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, is prepared to tell federal investigators that then-candidate Trump knew and approved of the Trump Tower meeting in 2016, in which a Russian lawyer with links to the Kremlin was expected to deliver damaging information about Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Appearing on Fox News and CBS Sunday, Giuliani said the president did not know beforehand about the meeting attended by the president’s son, Donald Trump Jnr, as well as Paul Manafort, the former chairman of Trump’s presidential campaign, and Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Giuliani said Cohen has claimed those who were allegedly present when Trump learned about the meeting also deny he knew about it.

“It seems to me his default position is to lie,” Giuliani said on Fox News Sunday of Cohen, who in May he characterised as an “honest, honourable lawyer.”

In a separate interview on Face the Nation, Giuliani said he’s aware of “something like 183 unique conversations on tape” from Cohen. Trump is on one tape discussing a possible payment to Karen McDougal, who said she had an affair with Trump, and there are another “11 or 12 others” in which Trump is discussed, Giuliani said. There an “untold number” of other tapes that have “no relation” to Trump, he said.

Still, such testimony by Cohen, a longtime fixer for the former property developer and reality-show celebrity, would contradict the testimony and public denials of the president, his son, and other campaign officials who’ve repeatedly said the president wasn’t aware of the Trump Tower meeting until more than a year later.

Trump on Friday reiterated that position.

“I did NOT know of the meeting with my son, Don jr.,” the president tweeted. “Sounds to me like someone is trying to make up stories in order to get himself out of an unrelated jam.”

Trump faces potential legal and political danger if it’s proven he knew in advance about the meeting, according to former federal prosecutors. Trump Jnr could face charges of lying to Congress if Cohen’s allegation is proven true, as he testified under oath that his father didn’t know about the meeting.