Trump sends finished written answers to Mueller

President Donald Trump on Tuesday submitted written answers to questions from special counsel Robert Mueller...

Posted: Nov 21, 2018 4:18 AM
Updated: Nov 21, 2018 4:18 AM

President Donald Trump on Tuesday submitted written answers to questions from special counsel Robert Mueller related to the investigation of possible collusion between Trump associates and Russians.

The responses from the President signify a major development in the Mueller probe following months of negotiations between the special counsel's office and Trump's legal team, and could be a sign of the end stages of the investigation.

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Trump told reporters before boarding Marine One to travel to Mar-a-Lago in Florida that he finished the written answers on Monday and provided them to his lawyers. "The written answers are finished," Trump said. "The written answers to the witch hunt that's been going on forever."

Asked whether he thought Mueller would be fair, Trump said he hopes so.

"The President today answered written questions submitted by the special counsel's office," Trump attorney Jay Sekulow said in a statement. "The questions presented dealt with issues regarding the Russia-related topics of the inquiry. The President responded in writing."

It's not yet clear whether the answers will be enough for Mueller to finish his investigation, as there could be additional questions -- and the special counsel's office could still try to pursue an in-person interview with Trump.

Trump and his legal team balked at some of the questions from Mueller that covered the presidential transition and Trump's time in the White House, believing those could be off limits due to executive privilege, CNN has previously reported.

The questions also cover only issues related to the potential collusion investigation and not the probe into possible obstruction of justice.

"It has been our position from the outset that much of what has been asked raised serious constitutional issues and was beyond the scope of a legitimate inquiry," Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said in a statement. "This remains our position today. The President has nonetheless provided unprecedented cooperation. The special counsel has been provided with more than 30 witnesses, 1.4 million pages of material, and now the President's written responses to questions. It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion."

Now that Trump has submitted his answers, the ball is back in Mueller's court to decide whether to pursue additional questions, follow-ups to the President's response or an in-person interview.

When Trump's legal team agreed to answer questions about collusion, they put off decisions about answering questions related to obstruction or sitting down for an interview. And Trump suggested in a recent interview with "Fox News Sunday" that those could be off the table.

"I think we've wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably, we're finished," Trump told Fox's Chris Wallace when asked if he would say no to an in-person interview or providing answers on obstruction questions.

If Trump's legal team rebuffs further inquiries from Mueller, it will be up to the special counsel to decide whether he has enough to finish writing his report or he needs an interview. Mueller could try to subpoena Trump for an interview, but Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker likely would need to sign off on that decision.

The big looming question over the agreement for Trump to provide the written answers related to the period during the campaign is whether that satisfies Mueller's questions about the transition and inauguration. Trump's legal team was provided a list of questions in the spring that included asking about efforts during the transition to establish a back channel to Russia and a 2017 meeting in the Seychelles involving Trump ally Erik Prince, a businessman and founder of the private security company formerly known as Blackwater.

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