WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump, in his written answers to special counsel Robert Mueller, said more than 30 times that he did not "recall" or "remember" or have an "independent recollection" of events related to key questions surrounding Russian investigation.
As part of Mueller's 448-page report, which was released Thursday and divided into two volumes, the Justice Department also released Trump's answers to dozens of questions from Mueller's office relating to key aspects of the investigation into whether the Trump campaign conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 election.
The questions centered around five key topics: The June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with members of Trump's circle and a Russian attorney, the Kremlin's hacking efforts, the Trump Tower Moscow project and the various contacts with Russia during the campaign.
The report noted that Mueller's office tried for a year to interview Trump as part of its investigation, noting that the president was a "subject" of the investigation. Mueller's office said it told Trump's counsel that "[a]n interview with the president is vital to our investigation," adding that "it is in the interest of the Presidency and the public for an interview to take place."
Trump's answers were dubbed both "inadequate" and "incomplete or imprecise" by Mueller in the report. Mueller added that his office considered subpoenaing the president for his testimony but decided the "investigation had made significant progress" and that he had enough evidence from other sources to determine the credibility of Trump's answers, the report states.
Addressing the highly controversial 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, which was attended by his then campaign chairman Paul Manafort, his son, Donald Trump Jr., and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in hopes of obtaining compromising information on political rival Hillary Clinton, Trump said he had "no recollection" over whether he was informed about the meeting prior to it happening.
He wrote that the meeting happened during "one of many busy months during a fast-paced campaign" and noted that "it was more than two years ago, at a time when I had many calls and interactions daily."
Trump was also questioned about his remarks in 2016, where he said: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press."
About five hours after Trump's comments, Russian intelligence agents attempted to hack into Clinton's private email server, the special counsel noted. Trump said he made the comments "in jest and sarcastically, as was apparent to any objective observer."
He also said he had "no recollection" of being told about Russian hacking efforts targeting Democrats and Clinton and added "I do not recall" being told that his longtime friend Roger Stone, or anyone associated with his campaign, was acting as an intermediary to communicate with WikiLeaks regarding hacked emails.
Another key aspect of the investigation was the prospect of Trump's business, the Trump Organization, building a tower in Moscow, something the president had been teasing and discussing for years.
The report noted that the president's former attorney, Michael Cohen, initially said discussions about building a Trump Tower in Moscow ended before Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee for president.
Cohen, who was charged with lying to Congress about the project, later changed his account and told investigators the talks continued into the summer of 2016.
Trying to resolve the inconsistency between the accounts, Mueller's team renewed their effort to get information from Trump about any discussions about abandoning the project, the timing of the decision to scrap the talks and what motivated the decision.
"In response, the President's personal counsel declined to provide additional information from the President and stated that "the President has fully answered the questions at issue," Mueller wrote.
In Trump's answers to questions about the proposal, the president said he was "not enthused" by the idea of building a tower in Moscow and his discussions with Cohen about the idea were "brief" and "not memorable."
Contributing: Kevin McCoy
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 'I do not recall': Read Trump's written answers to Mueller on Russian contacts, Trump Tower meeting