WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Wednesday disputed assertions that he had interviewed with President Donald Trump in 2017 to serve as FBI director before he was appointed to oversee the Russia investigation.
Mueller spoke at a televised hearing before the U.S. House of Representatives about his two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and any obstruction by Trump or his associates.
Trump, who regularly has blasted the investigation as a politically biased “witch hunt,” has repeatedly said Mueller wanted the top job at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which he held from 2001 to 2013 and reiterated his accusations ahead of Mueller’s testimony.
“It has been reported that Robert Mueller is saying that he did not apply and interview for the job of FBI Director (and get turned down) the day before he was wrongfully appointed Special Counsel,” Trump tweeted on Wednesday before the hearing. “Hope he doesn’t say that under oath in that we have numerous witnesses to the interview, including the Vice President of the United States!”
But Mueller flatly denied that he was actively seeking the FBI job at a May 16, 2017, meeting at the White House.
“My understanding of it was (I was) not applying for the job. I was asked to give my input on what it would take to do the job,” he told the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. “I interviewed with the president ... it was about the job but not about me applying for the job.”
Asked whether he had told Vice President Mike Pence at the meeting that the FBI director post was the only job he would return to public service for, Mueller told lawmakers: “Don’t recall that one.”
Mueller’s team said they found insufficient evidence to prove Trump and his campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia. They did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice but pointedly did not exonerate him.
(This story corrects title in first paragraph to special counsel instead of special prosecutor)
Reporting by David Morgan, Jan Wolfe and Sarah N. Lynch; Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Bill Trott