Although the White House initially denied his requests to do so, according to CNN, special counsel Robert Mueller has interviewed Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary. On Friday, CNN reported that this was one of the last known interviews that Mueller's team has conducted.
"The President urged me, like he has everyone in the administration, to fully cooperate with the special counsel," Sanders told CNN. "I was happy to voluntarily sit down with them." Bustle has reached out to the White House for comment.
Citing an unnamed source, ABC News reported that Sanders' interview took place approximately seven to nine months ago — around the same time that the special counsel was reportedly interviewing other White House officials. CNN reported that the content of Sanders' meeting with the special counsel is unknown, but that they likely discussed Sanders' statements in which she defended President Trump with regards to Mueller's Russia probe.
According to The Hill, Sanders has made multiple statements defending Trump during her tenure as press secretary. For example, Sanders claimed that Trump "certainly didn't dictate" a New York Times statement on his son's behalf about a 2016 meeting with Russian operatives, though the president later admitted that he had.
According to CNN, the White House initially refused to grant Mueller an interview with Sanders — and with former White House chief of staff John Kelly, who ultimately responded to a narrow set of questions from the special counsel's team. Mueller's team requested an interview with Kelly following raids of the home and office of former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen, who most recently has agreed to testify before three congressional committees before starting his prison sentence in March.
CBNC reported that Sanders has not been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with Mueller's Russia probe. But she's certainly not the first high-ranking Trump administration official to have been interviewed by the special counsel. Mueller's team interviewed Sean Spicer, Trump's first press secretary, in late 2017, as well as former White House communications director Hope Hicks. The special counsel has also interviewed Reince Priebus, the president's first chief of staff.
In its investigation of possible Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election, Mueller's team has indicted Cohen and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, per the Daily Beast. In fact, Mueller's team is expected to file its sentencing recommendation for Manafort soon, per CNN.
And just last month, longtime Trump ally Roger Stone was arrested on federal charges brought by Mueller's office, Vox reported, prompting Trump to once again dismiss Mueller's investigation as a "witch hunt." Both Trump and Sanders have used the phrase "witch hunt" to describe Mueller's Russia probe in the past, per the Associated Press.
According to CNN, Mueller is currently wrapping up his Russia investigation, and former acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker told reporters last month that the special counsel's investigation was "close to being completed," per The Hill. As he prepares to conclude his probe, Mueller has reportedly been focusing on the possibility that Trump or members of his administration may have obstructed justice with their conflicting statements.