President Trump was joking when he publicly begged WikiLeaks to find Hillary Clinton’s emails, and doesn’t recall ever being told that associates of his were talking with WikiLeaks, the president told the special counsel’s investigation probing the 2016 election.
Mr. Trump, in his written answers to the special counsel, also said that he never heard about any foreign government reaching out to cooperate during the 2016 campaign, was never told Russian President Vladimir Putin supported his candidacy, and didn’t recall hearing about the infamous Trump Tower meeting between his son and a Russian-backed lawyer.
The president refused an in-person interview but agreed to provide answers in writing to special counsel Robert Mueller. The answers to the more than 50 questions were published Thursday as part of the release of Mr. Mueller’s nearly 400-page report.
Mr. Mueller felt Mr. Trump’s written answers, including more than 30 times he said he didn’t recall something, were inadequate. The special counsel asked again late last year for an in-person interview with the president.
But Mr. Trump again declined, and Mr. Mueller concluded it wasn’t worth the court battle that would ensue if he insisted on subpoenaing the president for testimony.
“We determined that the substantial quantity of information we had obtained from other sources allowed us to draw relevant factual conclusions on intent and credibility,” the investigators concluded.
In his responses, Mr. Trump denied all of the suggestions percolating in the press and among anti-Trump Democrats and Republicans that he was working with Russia in that country’s attempts to meddle in the 2016 election. The president repeatedly said he wasn’t even aware of Russian efforts to contact his campaign.
“I have no recollection being told that Putin or Russia supported my candidacy or opposed Hillary Clinton,” the president said.
Russia made serious efforts to meddle, Mr. Mueller found. Those included military intelligence-led efforts to hack emails, and a Russian-backed company’s effort to stir up sentiments with a social media disinformation campaign.
Democrats, spurred by the president’s own brash behavior and the salacious and largely false anti-Trump Steele dossier, accused him of crimes.
Mr. Mueller’s report clears him and his team of that behavior.
In his answers, Mr. Trump did admit to having a “few” conversations with former personal lawyer Michael Cohen during the campaign about building a Trump Tower project in Moscow, but he said he was not enthused by the prospects.
And the president said he was unaware that Paul Manafort, his onetime campaign chairman, was telling other potential clients he could brief them on campaign goings-on.
• Jeff Mordock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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