- In a phone call to his confidant Bill O’Reilly and in public remarks Thursday, President Donald Trump again argued that the former special counsel Robert Mueller was angry with him over a country-club dispute.
- “Mueller wanted $US15,000 back and Trump said no,” O’Reilly remarked in a radio interview Thursday – an account Mueller has disputed.
- Trump has renewed his attacks on the former special counsel after Mueller’s first public remarks about the two-year Russia investigation led to renewed calls for the president’s impeachment.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
President Donald Trump renewed attacks on Robert Mueller this week, arguing once again that the special counsel’s Russia investigation was marred by conflicts of interest, including a disputed characterization of what Trump frames as a long-standing financial dispute over a fee Mueller paid at one of Trump’s country clubs.
In his first public remarks since being appointed special counsel in 2017, Mueller on Wednesday morning reiterated his report’s disclosure that if his investigation into Russian election interference and possible obstruction of justice by Trump had found that Trump did not break the law, the report would have said so.
The remarks, which seemed to bolster the idea that the report did not exonerate Trump on obstruction, were seized on by Democrats calling for the president’s impeachment.
According to The New York Times, Trump vented throughout the day to aides and in late-night phone calls to friends – including the former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.
According to O’Reilly, a longtime Trump confidant, the president said the former special counsel was fuelled by anger about a dispute over fees Trump said Mueller paid at a country club owned by him.
“President Trump called me last night around 11 o’clock,” O’Reilly said in a call Thursday morning to the “Bernie and Sid in the Morning” radio show, saying that Trump made the call to discuss a book O’Reilly is writing.
“He wouldn’t give him his deposit back for a country-club membership that Trump owned and Mueller was moving,” O’Reilly said. “Mueller wanted $US15,000 back and Trump said no.”
In remarks to reporters Thursday, Trump listed a “business dispute” among Mueller’s motivations in a seeming reference to the dispute – and described Mueller on Twitter as “totally conflicted.”
It’s not the first time that Trump has made the accusation. Back in January 2018, The New York Times reported that it was one of the reasons Trump listed to aides as rationale in a June 2017 attempt to fire Mueller.
The president’s claims were addressed and rejected in Mueller’s report, which was presented to Congress in April with light redactions. Mueller’s report presents a different account of the golf-club episode.
Describing his communications with Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, about 20 miles northwest of Washington, DC, Mueller wrote that in October 2011 he informed the club that he was cancelling his membership because he lived in Washington so was unable to make full use of the facility.
He said he requested a partial refund of the membership fee paid in 1994 and was told he had been placed on a list of those seeking a refund, after which he had no more contact with the club.
In interviews with the special counsel’s investigators, Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, describedTrump’s conflict-of-interest accusations as “ridiculous and petty,” remarking that “none of them was real or could come close to justifying precluding Mueller from serving as special counsel.”
O’Reilly also said on Thursday that Trump had launched into another old conflict-of-interest attack, arguing to him that Mueller was angry that Trump denied him the role of FBI director after Trump fired James Comey in May 2017.
Trump made the same argument publicly on Thursday, tweeting: “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!”
That contradicts what Bannon told Mueller’s investigators; he said Mueller was invited to a meeting at the White House in May 2017 to discuss the FBI.
Bannon told investigators that the White House considered “beseeching” Mueller to be the FBI director again after the controversial sacking of Comey and that “he did not come in looking for the job.”
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.