President Donald Trump says that he has chosen to stay out of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation — but he claimed that he is "totally allowed" to be involved in the probe and could even "run it."
"I've decided to stay out," Trump said in an interview with Reuters published Monday. "Now, I don't have to stay out. I can go in and I could do whatever. I could run it if I want.
"I’m totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven’t chosen to be involved. I’ll stay out," Trump said.
Trump has repeatedly blasted Mueller's probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible obstruction of justice, railing against what he derides as a "Rigged Witch Hunt."
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In his interview with Reuters, Trump said he was worried that any statements he provides to Mueller under oath could be used to bring perjury charges against him — echoing the concerns of his top lawyer in the investigation, Rudy Giuliani, who has said any meeting with the special counsel could be a so-called perjury trap.
It is unclear if the president could "run" the Mueller investigation, but experts have said that Trump can likely fire Mueller — a move that could trigger a Constitutional crisis.
Trump said he feared that investigators could compare his statements with those of others who have testified in the special counsel inquiry, such as former FBI Director James Comey, who the president fired last May. Trump said any discrepancies in such statements could be used against him.
"So if I say something and he [Comey] says something, and it’s my word against his, and he’s best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: 'Well, I believe Comey,' and even if I’m telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That’s no good," Trump told Reuters.
Trump did not say whether he would agree to a sit-down with Mueller. He also declined to say whether he might strip the special counsel of his security clearance — something he did last week to former CIA Director John Brennan, who has sharply criticized Trump's foreign policy and national security policies.
Trump has made several moves that could be seen as attempts to curtail the probe, including the dismissal of Comey, calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the inquiry, and reportedly seeking to fire Mueller in the past.
Trump's comments to Reuters come just two days after The New York Times reported that White House counsel Don McGahn has been cooperating extensively in Mueller's investigation.
Russia, for its part, has denied meddling in the 2016 election. The U.S. intelligence community has said that Russia was responsible.