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Trump: I think Mueller will treat me fairly
President Trump said Thursday he believes special counsel Robert Mueller "will be fair" to him in the investigation into possible ties between the Trump campaign and Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
"There's been no collusion. But I think he's going to be fair," Trump told The New York Times during an interview at his golf club in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Trump's comments were striking because they came as many top Republicans have tried to discredit Mueller and his investigative team.
GOP lawmakers have seized upon anti-Trump texts sent by a senior FBI agent, who has since been reassigned from the probe, and called for the firing of Deputy FBI Director Andrew McCabe for his role in the Hillary Clinton email investigation.
Some Democrats have said the attacks could provide cover for Trump if he tries to fire Mueller, a step the White House has repeatedly insisted is not under consideration.
Trump, however, said the investigation "makes the country look very bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position."
"So the sooner it's worked out, the better it is for the country," he said.
The president also said it was "too bad" that Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from the Russia probe, the initial step that led to Mueller's eventual appointment as special counsel.
Trump claimed former President Obama's attorney general, Eric Holder, did much more to protect him politically.
"I have great respect for that, I'll be honest," he said.
The president repeatedly insisted his campaign did not collude with the Kremlin's efforts to meddle in last year's election, explaining why he has confidence in Mueller.
"There is no collusion, and even if there was, it's not a crime," Trump said.
At the same time, the president raised questions about the legitimacy of the Russia investigation while arguing it's been a boon for him politically.
Trump said the Mueller probe - as well as two congressional investigations into Russian interference - have angered the "base and made the base stronger."
"Some of the congressmen have been unbelievable in pointing out what a witch hunt the whole thing is," Trump said.
But there are ample signs the investigation has hurt Trump's political standing. His approval rating stands below 40 percent in Gallup's daily tracking poll.
A plurality of Americans, 47 percent, approve of Mueller's handling of the probe, according to a recent poll commissioned by CNN. Roughly one-third of Americans disapprove.
Meanwhile, Trump repeated his belief that Democrats "made the Russian story up as a hoax, as a ruse, as an excuse for losing an election that in theory Democrats should always win."
Asked if he would order the Justice Department to reopen the probe into Clinton's emails, Trump demurred.
"I have absolute right to do what I want to do with the Justice Department. But for purposes of hopefully thinking I'm going to be treated fairly, I've stayed uninvolved with this particular matter," he said.
Updated at 10:30 p.m.