Trump & Putin Discussed The Mueller Report, But The Details Are Fuzzy
CNN reports that President Trump had a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday morning. While discussing the call with reporters later in the day, Trump said he and Putin discussed the Mueller report, and scolded a reporter for asking if he confronted the Russian president about the country's meddling in the 2016 election.
"[Putin sort of smiled when he said something to the effect that [Robert Mueller's investigation] started up as a mountain and ended up as a mouse," Trump said. "But he knew that, because he knew that there was no collusion. Pretty much that's what it was."
Mueller's investigation focused on more than just the possibility of collusion between the Trump presidential campaign and Russia, however; the special counsel's team also examined Russia's attempts to interfere with U.S. presidential election, as well as the possibility of obstruction of justice by Trump.
Ultimately, Mueller concluded that Russia did seek to interfere with the election and that the Trump campaign did not commit any crimes that could fall under the umbrella of "collusion." Mueller didn't make a prosecutorial judgement on whether or not Trump obstructed justice; Mueller cited a previous ruling from the Department of Justice that sitting presidents can't be indicted, and said that as such, his team opted "not to apply an approach that could potentially result in a judgement that the President committed crimes."
When asked whether, during the call, he told Putin "not to meddle in the next election," Trump initially avoided the question and criticized the reporter who asked it.
"Excuse me, I'm talking," Trump said. "I'm answering this question. You are very rude."
When pressed again, Trump admitted that he didn't tell Putin to stop interfering in U.S. elections.
"We didn't discuss that," Trump said. "Really didn't discuss it. We discussed five or six things. We also went into great detail on various things."
Trump provided a few additional details of his phone call with Putin in a series of tweets earlier in the day, where he said they discussed the "Russian hoax" and other matters.
"Had a long and very good conversation with President Putin of Russia," Trump wrote. "As I have always said, long before the Witch Hunt started, getting along with Russia, China, and everyone is a good thing, not a bad thing....We discussed Trade, Venezuela, Ukraine, North Korea, Nuclear Arms Control and even the 'Russian Hoax.' Very productive talk!"
At a 2018 summit with Putin in Helsinki, Trump was strongly criticized for what some called "siding with Russia" on the question of election meddling. Although no fewer than 17 U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that the Russian government made a concerted attempt to influence the results of the 2016 election, Trump told reporters after the summit that he took Putin at his word that Russia, in fact, didn't meddle in the election.
"President Putin says it's not Russia," Trump explained. "I don't see any reason why it would be."
In response to Trump's comments, the late Sen. John McCain said in a statement that "no prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant."