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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Wednesday it "seems unlikely" that he'll have to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller about the investigation into allegations that Trump's campaign colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, repeatedly insisting there was “no collusion.”
"When they have no collusion … it seems unlikely that you'd even have an interview," Trump said during a news conference at the White House in which he called the Russia investigation a "Democratic hoax."
As far as any potential interview with Mueller, Trump left things vague, saying "certainly, we'll see what happens," while suggesting that it might not be necessary.
"There is collusion, but it's really with the Democrats and the Russians," Trump said, telling reporters "the witch hunt continues."
The president's comments Wednesday were a departure from his previously expressed willingness to meet with the special counsel. In June 2017, Trump said he was "100 percent" willing to testify under oath about his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey. The circumstances around Trump's unexpected firing of Comey are among the topics being focused on by Mueller's team, who could be looking into whether Trump obstructed justice in his firing of Comey.
But asked by a reporter Saturday at Camp David if he was still open to speaking with Mueller, Trump demurred, first saying "yeah," but not committing to an interview.
"There's been no collusion, there's been no crime, and in theory everybody tells me I'm not under investigation," he told reporters. "Maybe Hillary [Clinton] is, I don't know, but I'm not," he said. "But we have been very open. We could have done it two ways. We could have been very closed, and it would have taken years. But you know, sort of like when you've done nothing wrong, let's be open and get it over with."
Sources familiar with the matter previously told NBC News that Trump's legal team was preparing for the possibility off an interview with Mueller’s team, including the possibility of written responses to questions in lieu of a formal sit-down.
Later in the news conference, Trump told reporters he thought it was "better to work with Russia" on matters of international importance — like North Korea — but said that his actions on energy development, as well as rebuilding the military, weren't policies that would earn him any praise from the Kremlin.
"(Russia President Vladimir) Putin can't love that," Trump said.
The Russia investigation has hovered over the administration as Trump continues to try to tackle complex domestic issues, specifically immigration reform that both addresses the legal status of those covered by an Obama-era immigration policy allowing people brought to the United States illegally as children to remain in the country (known as Dreamers), as well as funding for his long-promised border wall.
Any deal on immigration "has to include the wall," Trump said Wednesday, "because without the wall, it all doesn’t work.” The wall, he continued, was necessary for security, safety and stopping drugs from coming into the United States.
One day earlier Trump seemed open to a "clean" deal on Dreamers when it was proposed by Democrats during a bipartisan meeting, but at the time it was unclear whether a clean deal meant the wall in addition to a solution for Dreamers.