Trump Claims Rosenstein Told Him Not Target

News  |  Feb 1, 2019

UPDATE: The New York Times has published additional excerpts of its Oval Office interview with the president.

On Roger Stone's indictment:

TRUMP: Can I tell you? I didn’t see it. I know what was in the indictment if you read it, there was no collusion with Russia. But that’s in a lot of these things. And a lot of them are: They come in, they interview somebody and they get them for lying. I mean, you know.

I’ll give you an example. So I never met Carter Page. I think to this day I never met Carter Page. I never met Carter Page. [George] Papadopoulos, I never met him, other than one time, where he sat at a table along with maybe 10 or 15 other people, because they wanted to set up a national security team. And I guess he has a certain expertise in national security. So he was at a table very briefly. I don’t believe I ever spoke to him. You know there were a lot of people. I was there for a very short period of time. Never met him.

People have been treated very, very badly. This is a very bad thing.

HABERMAN: Who else has been treated very badly, in your opinion?

TRUMP: Well, I’d rather save it for later. We’ll do something on it at the right time, but I did think this. When Roger Stone, who all of us know, I mean everybody knows Roger.


TRUMP: He was not my consultant. But if you read the papers you know it’s like — the media, it’s like — but I’ve always liked him. He’s a character, and I’ll tell you what people respect what he said. Bearing false witness, etc. But yeah, people do respect what he said.

HABERMAN: What he said about what?

TRUMP: Bear false witness. I will never testify against the president. He actually said at one time — you know he’s said it numerous times, but I heard him say it one time he’s done a great job, he’s a great president, and I will not, you know, lie in order to — people respect that so much. They respect that.

On Trump Tower Moscow:

BAKER: Sir, can we clarify the Trump Tower Moscow proposal, right? There was this discussion. And we’ve learned since the last, since the campaign, that this went on longer through the campaign than we had expected —

TRUMP: So let me tell you about about Trump Tower Moscow. This was a very unimportant deal. This was a very unimportant deal. No. 1. No. 2, this was a deal, the only thing you heard is through Rudy [Giuliani]. Is that what you heard? Through Rudy?

BAKER: More recently we heard through Rudy, he quotes you.

TRUMP: Rudy was incorrect. No. 1, he was incorrect, and we’ve explained that, he was wrong. Rudy has been wrong. A little bit. But what has happened is this. I didn’t care. That deal was not important. It was essentially a letter of intent or an option. I’m not even sure that they had a site. And if you look at where that was sent to, that was a Michael Cohen thing. If you look, I always say, Why don’t you bring this up, to Jay Sekulow, good guy. I think it was sent to almost like a public address for Moscow. If you take a look at it. Take a good solid look. The original letter or something was sent. They didn’t even have anybody to send it to. But that deal is just like other deals. I was doing other deals. I was running for president, but I was also running a business.

BAKER: How late do you remember having any conversations about it in 2016? What was the latest that you remember?

TRUMP: I would say it was early to middle of the year. Now, I don’t know that Cohen didn’t go a little bit longer than that. I don’t think it would be much longer. But then he could have come back to me and said, “Listen, I put it together.” Because that stuff happens. You know, you think a deal — I was running for president, I was doing really well. The last thing I cared about was building a building.

BAKER: But you told people that you didn’t have any business there. People might have misunderstood.

TRUMP: That wasn’t business. Peter, that wasn’t business.

BAKER: Isn’t that misleading to say you weren’t pursuing business there, right?


TRUMP: I had no money invested. It was a letter of intent, or option. It was a free option. It was a nothing. And I wasn’t doing anything. I don’t consider that even business. And frankly, that wasn’t even on my radar. If you take a look at that, take a look at the deal. There was no money put up. There was no transfer. I don’t think they had a location. I’m not even sure if they had a location.

BAKER: Clearly there was a hope of having money. That was the reason you were pursuing it, right?

TRUMP: My point is this — It was a free option to look at a deal, to look at deals. That was not like, “I’m going to buy a property in Moscow. I’m going to do — or I’m building a building in Moscow.” Now, I would have had every right to do a deal. That’s what I did. That’s what I did.

Rudy was wrong in that he went — I think what Rudy was looking at, I think, was that in the statement I made to the Mueller group, we talked about during that period of a year, up until the election, we talked about that. So he may have been referring to that.

But the way I view it is early in the year to middle of the year, no interest. I had very little interest in the first place, and again, I viewed it as a free option. It may have been a letter of intent. I don’t know exactly what it was called. But it was unimportant. And you know what was very important to me? Running for president. And doing well. But I was running a business. I mean, I would have been allowed to build 20 buildings. I was doing other things. I was doing a lot of other things. I was running a business. Because as you would know, there weren’t a lot of people at the time that thought I was going to win. So I don’t want to give up a year and a half of my life, not do anything, run for president, then have to go back and say, you know, “I could have kept running my business.”

Very interestingly, you know, George Washington ran his business. You can, I guess, you can go long beyond the election, if you wanted to. You know. But I didn’t do that.

BAKER: But there’s a difference between running a domestic business and being possibly in business with Russian figures at the same time, right? You can imagine why people might find that concerning?

TRUMP: I have nothing. All I did was be a good candidate. Russia didn’t help me. Russia did not help me. There was no collusion. There was none of that. I was a good candidate. I did a good job. I won’t say whether she was a good candidate or not. I mean, the primary collusion was Hillary Clinton. If you take a look, Peter. I mean, look at that phony dossier. Some of that money, they say, went to Russia. [Tony] Podesta was involved with Russia. You look at the kind of relationships they had. They had real relationships with Russia. I had a potential, a deal that frankly wasn’t even a deal. It was literally — I viewed it as an option. But maybe it was called a letter of intent. Something like that.

 On Rod Rosenstein allegedly telling Trump he isn't a target:

BAKER: Has Attorney General [Matthew] Whitaker given you any indication of whether you face any exposure in this investigation?


HABERMAN: Or your family?

TRUMP: I don’t even talk to him about it.

HABERMAN: You never talk to Matt Whitaker?

TRUMP: I don’t talk to him about it. How can you have exposure when you haven’t done anything? I had nothing to do with any of this, other than that I was a good candidate that won an election.

HABERMAN: Has Rod Rosenstein given you any sense over the course of the last year about whether you have any exposure, either in — or there’s any concerns, or whether you’re a target of the Mueller report?

TRUMP: Well he told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target.

HABERMAN: He told your attorneys?

TRUMP: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

HABERMAN: Did he say that about the S.D.N.Y. [Southern District of New York] investigation, too?

TRUMP: About which?

HABERMAN: The S.D.N.Y. investigation. Because there’s two. There’s Mueller, and then there’s the Cohen investigation.

TRUMP: I don’t know about that. That I don’t know about.

HABERMAN: Rod has never said anything to you about whether you’re a target at all in terms of what they were looking for on Cohen? Has that ever come up?

TRUMP: No. I don’t. We didn’t discuss it.

AIDE: Mr. President, we’re coming up on 45 minutes.

TRUMP: Yeah, that’s O.K. Rod told me I’m not a target of the investigation.


TRUMP: He did. He told me.

HABERMAN: Do you remember how long ago he said that?

TRUMP: I think the lawyers would speak to him a lot about that. Not a lot. But a number of times. He never said — I never asked him that question.

HABERMAN: But your lawyers have?

TRUMP: The lawyers ask him. They say, “He’s not a target of the investigation.”

On tweeting about and speaking about Michael Cohen's father-in-law:

BAKER: Can I ask, speaking of Mr. Cohen, you’ve said that investigators should be looking at his father-in-law. What did you mean by that?

TRUMP: Well, that’s what I’ve heard. I’ve heard his father-in-law was — I’m not saying investigation.


BAKER: Can I ask, on the record, what’s the purpose of saying that? Some people are wondering whether or not this kind of thing might count as witness tampering, that you’re kind of publicly —

TRUMP: It’s not witness tampering. It’s not witness tampering at all. It’s not witness tampering.

BAKER: What’s your purpose, then? Help us understand that.

TRUMP: I did have to read what I said. What did I say? I don’t know. What did I say?

HABERMAN: Just that people ought to be taking a look at Michael Cohen’s father-in-law. And House Democrats have said they thought that —

TRUMP: Well, I will say this: I think people have the right to speak their mind. You know, speaking your mind. I’ve heard that for a period of time. But other people have said it, too. I mean, many people have said it.

On William Barr:

HABERMAN: There was a report that you were upset when you saw the Senate testimony of Bill Barr [the nominee for attorney general], when he was talking about his personal closeness with Robert Mueller. Were you surprised by that? And —

TRUMP: No. I didn’t know Bill Barr, but I’ve always heard he was an outstanding man.

HABERMAN: Did that bother you?

TRUMP: And that’s what I wanted for that position.

HABERMAN: It doesn’t bother you that he’s friendly with Bob Mueller? That’s not a —

TRUMP: I did hear the statement and it was totally acceptable to me. I just want somebody that’s a very outstanding person and who’s going to be — I think he has a chance to be a great attorney general.

And they need it. They really need it. I mean they — You see what’s happening. There’s been turmoil between the Justice Department, the F.B.I. You look at all of the statements made. You look at all of the firings, not firings by me, by the way. But you look at all of the people that have left and been fired and terminated and all of the terrible statements being made. And it is a terrible thing that’s gone on there.

BAKER: Have you talked about what he should do once he takes over, about those things?

TRUMP: Very little ... 


BAKER: Were you aware of the memo that he had written and submitted to I think the White House counsel criticizing Mueller’s approach.

TRUMP: I did not know that.

HABERMAN: You didn’t know that?

TRUMP: I did not know. I mean, I read it afterwards. But I did not know.

BAKER: Did you know it when you picked him or you didn’t know it at the time?

TRUMP: I didn’t see the memo. I never read the memo.

Excerpts From Trump’s Interview With The New York Times (NYT)

President Trump spoke with The New York Times in the Oval Office Thursday. The following are the sections of that interview that deal with the Russia investigation and related matters:

Addressing a wide range of subjects, Mr. Trump brushed off the investigations that have consumed so much of his presidency, saying that his lawyers have been reassured by the outgoing deputy attorney general, Rod J. Rosenstein, that the president himself was not a target. Mr. Trump said he never spoke with Roger J. Stone Jr., his longtime associate who was indicted last week, about WikiLeaks and the stolen Democratic emails it posted during the 2016 election, nor did he direct anyone to do so.

“No, I didn’t. I never did,” he said of speaking with Mr. Stone on the subject. Did he ever direct anyone to get in touch with Mr. Stone about WikiLeaks? “Never did,” he repeated.

The president dismissed the importance of the proposed Trump Tower his team was seeking to build in Moscow at the height of the election, and he denied his own lawyer’s account of how late in the campaign he was still discussing the project. He also denied that his Twitter messages about former associates who are cooperating with prosecutors amount to witness tampering.


The interview was arranged after Mr. Trump reached out to A.G. Sulzberger, the publisher of The New York Times, and invited him for an off-the-record dinner. Mr. Sulzberger declined, saying he would prefer an on-the-record interview that included two of his reporters. The president agreed.

Mr. Trump sat behind the Resolute Desk, sipping periodically from a glass of Diet Coke with ice cubes floating in it and resting on a gold coaster. His acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney; his senior communications adviser, Bill Shine; and his press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, sat in on the session with Mr. Sulzberger and the two Times reporters.

Mr. Trump spoke with a low voice, his arms folded tightly during questions about the Russia inquiry. But he was more good humored at other points. 


Mr. Trump said he has likewise received reassurances from Mr. Rosenstein, who until Attorney General Jeff Sessions was fired in November, was overseeing the Russia investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III.

“He told the attorneys that I’m not a subject, I’m not a target,” Mr. Trump said. Asked if that also covered the separate investigation by federal prosecutors in New York, he said, “I don’t know about that.”

But he denied having anything to do with Mr. Stone’s involvement with WikiLeaks, which during the campaign posted online Democratic emails that were stolen by Russian intelligence services. He expressed sympathy for Mr. Stone for having to endure a raid by heavily armed F.B.I. agents that resulted in his arrest last week.


“I’ve always liked — I like Roger, he’s a character,” Mr. Trump said, insisting that the F.B.I. agents charging “a house like they did at six o’clock in the morning. I think that was a very sad thing for this country.”

Mr. Trump said he had played no role in directing White House officials to arrange for his son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, to receive a top-secret clearance. Mr. Kushner’s top-secret clearance application was rejected at least once, after concerns were raised by the F.B.I. about his foreign contacts. The C.I.A., which also raised concerns about Mr. Kushner’s foreign contacts, has continued to deny him access to “sensitive compartmentalized information.”

Trump, in Interview, Calls Wall Talks ‘Waste of Time’ and Dismisses Investigations (NYT)