National reporter leading The Post’s breaking political news team
July 24 at 1:01 PM
President Trump continued to insist Wednesday that Robert S. Mueller III sought to become FBI director in 2017, an assertion the former special counsel disputed during his congressional testimony and White House officials have discredited.
In tweets in advance of Wednesday’s appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, Trump referenced a May 2017 meeting he had with Mueller and characterized it as an interview to replace former FBI director James B. Comey, whom Trump had fired.
“It has been reported that Robert Mueller is saying that he did not apply and interview for the job of FBI Director (and get turned down) the day before he was wrongfully appointed Special Counsel,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Hope he doesn’t say that under oath.”
“[W]e have numerous witnesses to the interview, including the Vice President of the United States!” Trump added.
Trump has previously cited the meeting as evidence for his contention that Mueller had conflicts of interest.
Alyssa Farah, a spokeswoman for Vice President Pence, said in an email Wednesday that Pence was present for a meeting in the Oval Office “when Robert Mueller interviewed for the job of FBI Director in May of 2017.”
During his testimony under oath Wednesday, Mueller confirmed he met with Trump about the position of FBI director but “not as a candidate.”
“It was about the job but not about me applying for the job,” Mueller said in response to questioning from Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.).
Trump’s contention that Mueller wanted to return to the position of FBI director, which he held from 2001 to 2013, has been disputed by people familiar with their meeting.
Mueller was invited to the White House because Trump aides were concerned about the political fallout and controversy over Trump’s firing of Comey and believed having Mueller, a former FBI director, meet with the president could have a calming effect, according to a former administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue.
Former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon told investigators the purpose of the meeting was not a job interview but to have Mueller “offer a perspective on the institution of the FBI,” according to the special counsel’s report, and “although the White House thought about beseeching Mueller to become Director again, he did not come in looking for the job.”
The former administration official confirmed that account, saying Mueller told White House officials he took the meeting only as a courtesy to the president.
Trump was friendly during their talk, the official said, and when the issue came up of whether Mueller might be interested in once again becoming FBI director, he said he could not take the job unless a law was changed. In July 2011, Congress cleared legislation allowing Mueller to serve an additional two years as director beyond his 10-year term. That law effectively prevented him from serving again.
At the meeting, White House officials told Mueller they were willing to push Congress to pass a new law to make his reappointment possible, but Mueller told the president he was probably not the best person for the post, according to the former official.
David Nakamura, Josh Dawsey and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.