In the hours before the former special counsel’s appearance before Congress, Trump claimed Mueller applied and interviewed for the position, but was turned down. He even cautioned Mueller against denying the president’s claim under oath.
“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,” the president tweeted. “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!”
Mueller, apparently, either didn’t see the tweet or didn’t care.
During his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, Mueller refuted this, telling Rep. Louie Gohmer (R-Texas) that he did meet with Trump to discuss the position the day before he was appointed special counsel, but “not as a candidate.”
Later in his testimony, Mueller confirmed that he was not interviewing for the position when he visited the White House. “I did not apply for the job. I was asked to give my input,” he said in response to a question about the meeting from Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.).
A spokesperson for Vice President Pence told Rolling Stone, “Yes, the Vice President was present in the Oval Office when Robert Mueller interviewed for the job of FBI Director in May of 2017.”
Trump has repeatedly claimed Mueller — a Republican with a long history of appointments from Republican presidents — is “highly conflicted,” and this is one of the reasons why.
“Robert Mueller came to the Oval Office (along with other potential candidates) seeking to be named the Director of the FBI,” Trump tweeted in May. “He had already been in that position for 12 years, I told him NO. The next day he was named Special Counsel – A total Conflict of Interest. NICE!”
Robert Mueller came to the Oval Office (along with other potential candidates) seeking to be named the Director of the FBI. He had already been in that position for 12 years, I told him NO. The next day he was named Special Counsel – A total Conflict of Interest. NICE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 30, 2019
If Trump were to have turned down Mueller for the FBI director position, one could argue there would be a conflict of interest in Mueller’s subsequent investigation involving the president. And there’s some evidence Trump wanted Mueller for the job: NPR reported in 2017 that the White House was considering Mueller for the position. Days later, an unnamed White House official told CNN that Trump interviewed Mueller for the position the day before Mueller was appointed special counsel.
But Mueller isn’t the only one denying he wanted the position: The Mueller report explains former Trump adviser Steve Bannon told prosecutors that “the White House had invited Mueller to speak to the President to offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI.” Bannon added that Mueller “did not come in looking for the job.”