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Trump submits answers to special counsel questions about Russian interference

President Trump said Nov. 20 that his lawyers have his answers to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's questions about Russia meddling in the 2016 election. (Video: The Washington Post)

President Trump’s attorneys on Tuesday submitted his written answers to a series of questions from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III about Trump’s knowledge of the Russian government’s efforts to assist his 2016 White House bid.

The inquiries include only a portion of the questions that Mueller has sought to pose to Trump for nearly a year, when he first requested an interview with the president. The topics cover activities during the campaign and do not delve into questions about whether Trump has sought to obstruct the probe into Russian interference.

One of Trump’s attorneys said that his answers will not provide any great surprises.

“What I can tell you is they’re complete and detailed,” Rudolph W. Giuliani said in an interview. “But there’s nothing there I haven’t read in a newspaper.”

The answers represent the first time Trump has given his own version of events to the special counsel in the 11 months since Mueller first asked for a sit-down interview with the president.

Mueller now must decide whether to continue to press for an in-person sit-down with Trump about his actions as president — a move his legal team continues to resist.

“Look, we made an agreement with them that we’d agree to disagree about that,” Giuliani said. “They said, in good faith, they’d go over our questions and decide if there was still a need for one. We said, in good faith, we’d listen to them, but would be very much inclined against it.”

Since his May 2017 appointment, Mueller’s probe has led to the indictments of 32 people, including 26 Russians. Four aides to Trump have pleaded guilty to various charges, most recently former campaign chairman Paul Manafort in September.

Trump’s lawyers originally planned to submit the answers to Mueller last Thursday, but put on the brakes.

Giuliani said there were “more questions raised about the legitimacy of the investigation that we had to discuss and look into,” declining to elaborate.

“Part of us doing this is making sure they’re acting in good faith,” he said. “Any time anything even little goes wrong, that suggests they’re not, we get delayed.”

The answers Trump provided Mueller’s team cover roughly a dozen questions related to five topics, including Trump’s knowledge about contacts that people in his orbit had with Russians.

Mueller asked Trump about whether he knew about Russian efforts to tilt the election in his favor — including WikiLeaks’ release of Democratic emails allegedly hacked by Russian operatives. The special counsel also asked the president about his son Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer who he believed was offering “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.

“We’re hoping these answers give them what they need,” Giuliani said.

But after months of negotiations with Mueller’s team, Trump’s attorneys have refused to answer any questions about his time as president-elect or president, arguing that the special counsel is not legally entitled to details about executive decision-making.

Trump initially expressed eagerness to sit down with Mueller, saying in January that he wanted to put to rest questions about whether his campaign colluded with the Russian government.

But his attorneys have repeatedly advised him not to do an interview, worried that statements he might give the special counsel could provide fodder for a perjury charge.

Giuliani said Trump’s submission of written answers represent yet another illustration of the White House’s “unprecedented cooperation” with the Mueller probe, saying the administration has provided more than 30 witnesses and 1.4 million pages of material.

“It is time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion,” he said.