President Donald Trump said in an interview released Sunday that he had complete power over former Special Counsel Robert Mueller and that he could have fired him at any point in time. The president also repeated his claim that Mueller’s report exonerated him of any crimes.

While talking to ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, Trump made several comments regarding executive power and his level of influence over the Mueller investigation. The most controversial parts of his remarks involved his ability to remove the special counsel – or lack thereof. The president stood by his claim that if he so pleased, he could have legally ended the investigation into him by firing Mueller. Several figures close to Trump testified during the Russia probe that he had ordered deputies, such as former White House counsel Donald McGahn, to end the special counsel’s tenure, but that the president’s aides refused. Trump disputed these reports during his ABC interview.

Stephanopoulos pursued the legality of Trump’s boast, questioning whether it was within the scope of the law for a sitting president to fire his own investigator. “A president can’t obstruct justice?” the commentator inquired. Trump responded, “A president can run the country. And that’s what happened, George. I run the country.” Stephanopoulos pushed further, asking, “When the president does it, it’s not illegal?” Trump simply replied that Article II of the Constitution, which describes the powers of the executive, is “very strong.”


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The ABC host also brought up the president’s reluctance to personally testify in the Mueller investigation instead of simply providing written responses. Defending the decision of his team not to appear in person, Trump said that he knew Mueller would try and trick him somehow. “They were looking to get us for lies, for slight misstatements,” said the president. “I looked at what happened to people, and it was very unfair. Very, very unfair. Very unfair.”

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