White House counsel reported to be cooperating extensively with Mueller probe
President Donald Trump on Saturday claimed that his administration has been "transparent" in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the election and possible obstruction of justice, after the New York Times reported that the White House counsel has been cooperating extensively in the matter.
The Times, citing a dozen current and former White House officials and others briefed on the matter, reported the White House Counsel Don McGahn has given at least three voluntary interviews with investigators totaling 30 hours over the past nine months.
Trump has made several moves which could be seen as trying to control or limit the investigation into Russian interference in the election, such as firing FBI Director James Comey, calling on Attorney General Jeff Sessions to end the Mueller investigation, and reportedly seeking to fire Mueller in the past.
"I allowed White House Counsel Don McGahn, and all other requested members of the White House Staff, to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel," Trump tweeted Saturday after the Times published its story.
"In addition we readily gave over one million pages of documents. Most transparent in history," Trump continued in the tweet. No Collusion, No Obstruction. Witch Hunt!"
Trump's attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said in an interview with NBC News that "the president allowed him to testify way back when."
"He could have raised several privileges. He didn't," Giuliani said. "There's no reason to believe he provided anything harmful, otherwise we would have heard about it by now."
The Times reported that McGahn gave investigators a mix of information both potentially damaging and favorable to the president, but that he also told investigators that he never saw Trump go beyond his legal authority.
McGahn, as White House counsel, does not serve as the president's personal lawyer. The Times reported that McGahn and his attorney were worried that Trump was setting him up to take the blame for any possible illegal acts of obstruction, so they sought to cooperate as fully as possible with Mueller's probe.
McGahn's attorney, William Burck, said Saturday that "President Trump, through counsel, declined to assert any privilege over Mr. McGahn's testimony, so Mr. McGahn answered the Special Counsel team's questions fulsomely and honestly, as any person interviewed by federal investigators must."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement on Saturday that "the president and Don have a great relationship," and "he appreciates all the hard work he's done, particularly his help and expertise with the judges, and the Supreme Court" [sic] nominees."
Giuliani told NBC News that if Trump had considered trying to remove Mueller that would not be criminal. He said he did not know if reports that Trump had considered that were true or not.
"The fact is, what you consider is never legal or illegal," Giuliani said. "I can consider robbing a bank, and if I don't do it there's no crime that's committed."
He also said that McGahn's cooperation does not mean that the information is damaging.
"People always view cooperation as giving up incriminating information but you can cooperate, tell the truth and not give up incriminating information because there's none to give up," Giuliani said. "So, I think this is really a question of impression, not of anything that we have to worry about."
Mueller's investigation has resulted in several guilty pleas by people once connected to the Trump campaign for lying to the FBI. Former national security advisor Michael Flynn and former Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos have pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI.
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was charged with financial charges as part of the investigation, but the allegations for which he is charged predated his involvement with the Trump campaign. He is on trial and the jury is deliberating in the case.