U.S. President Donald Trump said he believes he will be treated fairly by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who is leading an investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by associates of Trump.
In an interview with The New York Times published late on December 28, Trump appeared to shrug off concerns about the investigation, which was prompted by U.S. intelligence agencies' conclusions a year ago that Russia tried to help Trump defeat Democrat Hillary Clinton by disseminating propaganda on social media and hacking and releasing embarrassing Democratic Party e-mails.
In what the Times described as a half-hour impromptu interview at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida, Trump also reiterated his claim that there was no collusion.
"Everybody knows that there was no collusion. But I think he's going to be fair," Trump said of Mueller.
Mueller has charged four Trump associates in the Justice Department investigation. They include Trump's first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and is now cooperating with investigators.
Trump said he believes the probe "makes the country look bad," but that it has energized his core supporters.
"What it's done is...really angered the base and made the base stronger. My base is stronger than it's ever been," he said.
Trump's lawyers have been saying for weeks that they had expected the Mueller investigation to wrap up quickly, possibly by the end of 2017. Mueller has not commented on how long it will last.
Trump told the Times that he did not know how long the investigation would take. "Timing-wise, I can't tell you. I just don't know," he said.
Trump has repeatedly claimed that allegations of Russian interference and suspicions of collusion have been invented by Democrats.
He repeated that assertion in the interview, saying that Democrats "made the Russian story up as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election."
With reporting by AP, Reuters, and The New York Times