President Trump discussed Attorney General Jeff Sessions' recusal, Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election, the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and his meetings with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a wide-ranging interview with The New York Times on Wednesday.
Trump said Sessions' recusal was 'very unfair'
Trump said he would not have nominated Jeff Sessions for attorney general if he had known Sessions would recuse himself from the Russia probe, calling that decision “very unfair to the president.”
“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job and I would have picked somebody else," Trump said.
Trump said Sessions' recusal ultimately led to the investigation that Special Counsel Robert Mueller has been overseeing since May 17.
Speaking of Mueller...
Trump said he doesn't think it was necessary for Mueller to have been appointed as special counsel.
"I have done nothing wrong. A special counsel should never have been appointed in this case," Trump said.
Trump said Mueller was running an office full of conflicts of interest, but he said he would not order the Justice Department to fire Mueller.
Mueller has expanded the investigation and hired 13 more lawyers on June 16 to look into Russia's alleged election interference and whether Trump attempted to obstruct justice as president.
When asked if Mueller’s investigation would cross a "red line" if it looked at his family’s financial records beyond any affiliation to Russia, Trump replied, “I would say yes.” He would not, however, say what he would do about it.
“I think that’s a violation," Trump said. "Look, this is about Russia.”
Trump said Comey tried to 'leverage a dossier of compromising information'
Trump accused Comey of trying to "leverage a dossier of compromising information to keep his job."
"When [Comey] brought [the dossier] to me, I said this is really made-up junk," Trump said. "I didn’t think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal."
Trump rejected the notion that firing Comey was a political mistake. "I think I did a great thing for the American people," he said.
Trump said his Putin meeting was mostly 'pleasantries'
Trump said he and Russian President Vladimir Putin talked for 15 minutes, mostly about "pleasantries," in their previously undisclosed meeting during the G20 summit dinner.
Trump said he and Putin discussed adoptions. The Russian president banned Americans from adopting Russian children in 2012 after the U.S. enacted sanctions against Russia for human rights violations.
"We talked about Russian adoption. Yeah. I always found that interesting. Because, you know, he ended that years ago," Trump said.
Trump said his eldest son Donald Trump Jr. also discussed adoptions with Russia lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya during their meeting last year in New York.
"And I actually talked about Russian adoption with him, which is interesting because it was a part of the conversation that Don [Jr.] had in that meeting."