President Donald Trump’s written testimony to special counsel Robert Mueller showed Trump repeatedly responded to inquiries with brief denials or lack of recollection on wide-ranging topics, saying more than 30 times he did not recall, remember or recollect.
The answers were unsatisfying to Mueller, according to the public version of the special counsel report released Thursday. The report took the step of introducing Trump’s answers by saying after the investigators received them, they informed Trump’s lawyers of their “insufficiency,” noting in particular that Trump “stated on more than 30 occasions that he ‘does not recall’ or ‘remember’ or have an ‘independent recollection’ of information called for by the questions.”
Trump never sat for an in-person interview with the Mueller team, and Mueller opted to avoid a drawn-out legal fight with the President by not subpoenaing him for testimony outside of the written answers attributed to Trump.
In its written questions, the Mueller team focused on five topics for Trump: an infamous Trump Tower meeting in June 2016 between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Russian attorney; the dissemination of hacked emails from the Democratic Party; a proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow; Manafort and Russia-related campaign issues; and a small section about the World Chess Championship.
On all topics, Trump’s written answers said he did “not recall” or had “no recollection” of information the special counsel asked about.
Trump maintained in his written answers that he had no knowledge at the time of the Trump Tower meeting and that he had “no recollection of being told” that Russian President Vladimir Putin supported him and opposed Hillary Clinton.
“However, I was aware of some reports indicating that President Putin had made complimentary statements about me,” Trump’s written testimony said.
As for the publication of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee, Clinton campaign chief John Podesta and others through WikiLeaks, Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks, Trump’s answers said he repeatedly that he had “no recollection” or did “not recall” communications between his associates and those groups, including by his longtime associate and political provocateur Roger Stone.
Trump’s testimony said in the leadup to the general election he “spoke by telephone with Roger Stone from time to time during the campaign” but had “no recollection of the specifics of any conversations” he had with Stone during that time period.
Trump’s written testimony to the entire list of questions about the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow comprised three paragraphs.
In those answers, Trump said he did recall conversations with his then-attorney Michael Cohen regarding the proposal, but that “they were brief, and they were not memorable.” He said further he “vaguely” remembered press inquiries and media reporting about Trump Organization business in Russia and allowed that he “may have” spoken with staff for the campaign or Trump Organization about responses.
Asked about Manafort and Russia-related issues in the campaign, Trump’s written testimony said he hired Manafort because of his past work with Republican presidential candidates, and that while he had learned Manafort was “somehow involved with individuals concerning Ukraine” he did “not remember the specifics” of what he knew at the time. Trump’s written answers showed he did “not recall” being told about efforts by Russian officials to meet him or senior members of his campaign or any involvement on his part to change the Republican Party’s platform position on arming Ukraine.
In a brief, fifth section about the World Chess Championship gala two days after the election, Trump’s written answers said he did “not remember having been asked to attend” the gala and that he “did not attend the event.”