WASHINGTON – Days after giving the green light for his White House counsel to testify in the Russia probe, President Donald Trump says he's concerned any statement he himself makes to special counsel Robert Mueller could put him in a "perjury trap."
In an interview Monday with Reuters News Agency, the president said if his testimony contradicts former FBI Director James Comey's, the special counsel might choose to believe Comey.
"So if I say something and he says something, and it's my word against his, and he's best friends with Mueller, so Mueller might say: 'Well, I believe Comey,' and even if I'm telling the truth, that makes me a liar. That's no good," Trump said.
His words echo those of his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, who told NBC's Chuck Todd over the weekend that the president wouldn't be "rushed" into testifying.
"When you tell me that he should testify because he's going to tell the truth and he shouldn't worry. Well, that's so silly because it's somebody's version of the truth. Not the truth," he said.
When Todd pushed back, insisting, "Truth is truth," Giuliani retorted: "No, it isn't truth. Truth isn't truth."
Giuliani later took to Twitter to clarify his remarks, saying, "My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic 'he said, she said' puzzle. Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth, other times it doesn't."
My statement was not meant as a pontification on moral theology but one referring to the situation where two people make precisely contradictory statements, the classic "he said,she said" puzzle. Sometimes further inquiry can reveal the truth other times it doesn't.
— Rudy Giuliani (@RudyGiuliani) August 20, 2018
The investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential race and whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials is unfolding as the US navigates rocky diplomatic relations with Moscow.
Trump told Reuters the probe, which he calls a witch hunt, plays "into the Russians' hands."
Meanwhile, the president informed the news agency that he hasn't decided if he'll answer the special counsel's questions. He also said US law gives him the right to direct the investigation, but he's decided to stay out of it.
"I can go in, and I could do whatever — I could run it if I want," he told Reuters. "But I decided to stay out. I'm totally allowed to be involved if I wanted to be. So far, I haven't chosen to be involved. I'll stay out."