President Donald Trump has told special counsel Robert Mueller in writing that he neither knew in advance about a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower where a Russian lawyer was expected to dish dirt on Hillary Clinton, nor was tipped by Roger Stone ahead of WikiLeaks’ dump of emails allegedly stolen by Russians from the Democratic National Committee that same year.
Nor is it known whether Mueller has evidence that could contradict Trump’s answers — which could expose the president to additional legal peril.
The gist of the answers was first reported by CNN on Wednesday.
CNN cited a source familiar with the matter who said Trump had made it clear that he answered Mueller’s questions to the best of his recollection.
Earlier, Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told the The Washington Post that the president did not recall ever speaking with Stone or right-wing conspiracy monger Jerome Corsi about WikiLeaks.
Mueller is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and possible coordination with that effort by members of Trump’s campaign.
The special counsel, who previously was the FBI’s director, also is looking into whether Trump has obstructed the Justice Department’s inquiry into the matters.
Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing by himself and by his campaign.
Both the WikiLeaks dump and the Trump Tower meeting are of particular interest to Mueller’s investigation.
The document release group WikiLeaks in 2016 came into possession of emails allegedly hacked by Russians from the DNC and from Clinton’s presidential campaign chairman, John Podesta.
WikLeaks released the first of two batches of Podesta’s swiped emails on Oct. 7, 2016, in a move later seen as affecting Clinton’s chances in the campaign. Trump praised the organization and its document dumps during the final stretch of the campaign. “I love WikiLeaks!” Trump proclaimed at an Oct. 10, 2016, rally in Pennsylvania.
Two months before that, Corsi wrote to Stone, a longtime political advisor to Trump, that he had heard WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, referred to as “friend in embassy” in the message, “plans 2 more dumps,” according to a drafted court document sent to Corsi by Mueller, which NBC News reported Tuesday.
“Impact planned to be very damaging,” Corsi wrote to Stone.
Stone has claimed, repeatedly, that he did not have advance warning of the WikiLeaks email dump.
He has also claimed that “I never discussed any of this with Donald Trump.”
Trump, during an interview with The Associated Press in 2017, said he had “never heard of WikiLeaks, never heard of it.”
The meeting at Trump Tower in New York City occurred June 9, 2016. Attendees included Trump’s eldest son, his son-in-law Jared Kushner, then campaign chief Paul Manafort, and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a Russian lawyer whom Donald Trump Jr. has said he believed was planning to offer damaging information about Clinton.
Trump Jr. later said that Veselnitskaya had “no meaningful information” to share.
The president in July 2017 — more than a year after the meeting — said he did not know it was going to occur before it happened, and that he only learned of it in July 2017. His son also has denied telling Trump about the meeting in advance.