The day before he was appointed special counsel overseeing the Russia investigation, Robert Mueller met with President Trump.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that the meeting was effectively a job interview for FBI director, a position that became open when the president fired FBI Director James Comey. That firing triggered the Justice Department’s appointment of a special counsel to oversee the investigation into Russia's influence campaign in the 2016 election.
But in his testimony before Congress on Wednesday, Mueller disputed Trump’s claim, saying he did not meet with the president for the FBI director job.
“Not as a candidate,” Mueller stated when asked by Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, about the meeting, which occurred on May 16, 2017 — a week after Comey’s firing. Mueller was appointed special counsel by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein the next day.
Gohmert asked Mueller if he discussed Comey in his meeting with Trump.
Mueller said he could “not remember” but did not believe he did.
Later, Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., asked Mueller again if he interviewed for the FBI director position the day before his appointment.
“My understanding was I was not applying for the job,” Mueller said. “I was asked to give my input on what it would take to do the job.”
In an interview with MSNBC last year, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon said the purpose of Mueller’s visit was “to give advice on the type of person we should select to be FBI director.”
Ahead of the hearing, Trump lashed out at the former counsel in a series of tweets, suggesting Mueller would be lying under oath if he denied the meeting was a job interview.
“It has been reported that Robert Mueller is saying that he did not apply and interview for the job of FBI Director (and get turned down) the day before he was wrongfully appointed Special Counsel,” Trump tweeted earlier Wednesday. “Hope he doesn’t say that under oath in that we have numerous witnesses to the interview, including the Vice President of the United States!”