Trump insists he's not 'angry' as the Mueller investigation escalates

  • President Donald Trump told The New York Times on Wednesday that he wasn't "angry at anybody" as the Russia investigation heats up.
  • Trump appeared to be responding to a Washington Post story that characterized him as increasingly frustrated after a grand jury indicted two former campaign associates, Paul Manafort and Rick Gates. 
  • Trump noted that the charges against Manafort had nothing to do with him or the campaign. 


President Donald Trump called a New York Times reporter on Wednesday to dispute a Washington Post story that characterized him as "angry at everybody" in the wake of a federal grand jury's decision to bring charges against his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and his former campaign aide, Rick Gates. 

Trump told The Times he was not "angry at anybody," adding that special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to tilt the 2016 election in his favor did not include him personally. 

"I'm not under investigation, as you know," Trump told The Times. 

Multiple revelations over the last few months appear to contradict the president's claim. Mueller is said to be building an obstruction-of-justice case against Trump related to his decision to fire James Comey as FBI director in May. At the time, Comey was spearheading the bureau's Russia investigation. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed Mueller special counsel shortly after Trump fired Comey.

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WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 28: Former FBI director Robert Mueller attends the ceremonial swearing-in of FBI Director James Comey at the FBI Headquarters October 28, 2013 in Washington, DC. Comey was officially sworn in as director of FBI on September 4 to succeed Mueller who had served as director for 12 years. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Barack Obama applauds outgoing Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) director Robert Mueller (L) in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington on June 21, 2013 as he nominates Jim Comey to be the next FBI director. Comey, a deputy attorney general under George W. Bush, would replace Mueller, who is stepping down from the agency he has led since the week before the September 11, 2001 attacks. AFP PHOTO/Nicholas KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller applauds key staff members during a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW HEADSHOT)
391489 03: U.S. President George W. Bush speaks during a conference as he stands with Justice Department veteran Robert Mueller, left, who he has nominated to head the FBI, and Attorney General John Ashcroft July 5, 2001 the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller stands for the national anthem during a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (L) reacts to a standing ovation from the audience, Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (C) and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder (R) during Mueller's farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller gestures during his remarks at a farewell ceremony held for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
FILE PHOTO -- U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft (R) and FBI Director Robert Mueller speak about possible terrorist threats against the United States, in Washington, May 26, 2004. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller reacts to applause from the audience during his farewell ceremony at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., right, and FBI Director Robert Mueller make their way to a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller (C) delivers remarks at a farewell ceremony for him at the Justice Department in Washington, August 1, 2013. On Monday the U.S. Senate confirmed former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to replace Mueller, who has led the bureau since shortly before the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Also onstage with Mueller are Deputy U.S. Attorney General James Cole (FROM L), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, former CIA Director George Tenet and TSA Administrator John Pistole. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 15: (L-R) Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton attend the National Peace Officers' Memorial Service at the U.S. Capitol May 15, 2013 in Washington, DC. Holder and other members of the Obama administration are being criticized over reports of the Internal Revenue Services' scrutiny of conservative organization's tax exemption requests and the subpoena of two months worth of Associated Press journalists' phone records. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee hearing on Federal Bureau of Investigation oversight on Capitol Hill in Washington June 13, 2013. Mueller said on Thursday that the U.S. government is doing everything it can to hold confessed leaker Edward Snowden accountable for splashing surveillance secrets across the pages of newspapers worldwide. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (L) welcomes FBI Director Robert Mueller during their meeting in Kiev June 5, 2013. REUTERS/Efrem Lukatsky/Pool (UKRAINE - Tags: POLITICS)
FBI Director Robert Mueller (L) arrives for the Obama presidential inauguration on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol January 21, 2013 in Washington. President Barack Obama was re-elected for a second term as President of the United States. Woman at right is unidentified. REUTERS/Win McNamee-POOL (UNITED STATES)
WASHINGTON, : FBI Director Robert Mueller answers questions before Congress 17 October 2002 on Capitol Hill in Washington. Mueller was testifying before the House and Senate Select Intelligence committees' final open hearing investigating events leading up to the September 11, 2001. AFP Photos/Stephen JAFFE (Photo credit should read STEPHEN JAFFE/AFP/Getty Images)
(L-R) CIA Director Leon Panetta, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and FBI Director Robert Mueller testify at a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, February 16, 2011. REUTERS/Jason Reed (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
399994 02: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller visits the American military compound at Kandahar Airport January 23, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mueller had lunch with FBI officials and Haji Gulali, commander of the Kandahar region. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller (L) stand during the National Anthem alongside Attorney General Eric Holder (R) and Deputy Attorney General James Cole (C) during a farewell ceremony in Mueller's honor at the Department of Justice on August 1, 2013. Mueller is retiring from the FBI after 12-years as Director. AFP PHOTO / Saul LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
399994 01: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Robert Mueller greets American forces on the American military compound at Kandahar Airport January 23, 2002 in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Mueller had lunch with FBI officials and Haji Gulali, commander of the Kandahar region. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 19: FBI Director Robert Mueller, center, talks with Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., right, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, talk before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing in Dirksen Building on oversight of the FBI. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JUNE 06: OVERSIGHT HEARING ON COUNTERTERRORISM--Sen. Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III, and Sen. Charles E. Grassley, R-Iowa, before the hearing. (Photo by Scott J. Ferrell/Congressional Quarterly/Getty Images)
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Mueller is also reportedly investigating Trump for his involvement in crafting a misleading statement that his son, Donald Trump Jr., released following reports that he met with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in June 2016 at Trump Tower.

Initially, one of Trump's personal defense lawyers, Jay Sekulow, insisted Trump had no involvement in crafting the statement. The Post later published a report directly contradicting Sekulow's claims, saying that Trump had "personally dictated" the statement while he was aboard Air Force One on his way back from the G-20 summit. Mueller is said to be zeroing in on Trump's role in drafting the statement and is set to interview several key aides who were with Trump when he allegedly dictated it.

During his phone call with The Times reporter Wednesday, Trump also pointed to the charges against Manafort and said, "even if you look at that, there's not even a mention of Trump in there. It has nothing to do with us."

Manafort was indicted on 12 counts Monday: Conspiracy against the United States, conspiracy to launder money; unregistered agent of a foreign principal; false and misleading Foreign Agents Registration Act statements; false statements; and seven counts of failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts.

While the charges related to Manafort do not specifically mention collusion or the Trump campaign, additional court filings about George Papadopoulos, a low-level foreign policy aide to the campaign, will likely make it difficult for the campaign to distance itself from the issue of Russia's election interference. 

Mueller's office unsealed legal documents related to Papadopoulos on Monday. Papadopoulos was arrested in late July and pleaded guilty to one count of lying to federal agents in early October. He is likely cooperating with authorities. 

The filings about Papadopoulos showed he had significant contact with multiple individuals connected to the Russian government during the campaign. They also revealed that Papadopoulos consistently kept his superiors in the loop while he was in touch with the Russia-linked individuals.

As The New Yorker's Ben Wallace-Wells noted on Monday, the fact that Papadopoulos informed high-level campaign advisers of his contacts with Russians will likely complicate things for the campaign.

In insisting that he's not angry about the Russia investigation, Trump appears to be heeding the advice of Ty Cobb, the white-collar criminal defense attorney heading up the White House's legal team. Cobb has strongly advocated a cooperative approach, rather than a combative one, toward Mueller's investigation, arguing that openness on the part of the White House will ensure that the investigation concludes quickly and smoothly. 

"I just got fantastic poll numbers," Trump said. "I'm in the office early and leave late; it's very smooth."

"Honestly, I'm really enjoying it," he added. 

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