Trump says he did not know Whitaker was critical of Mueller before picking him for acting AG

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE on Sunday claimed he was unaware that Matthew Whitaker had been publicly critical of special counsel Robert MuellerRobert Swan MuellerSasse: US should applaud choice of Mueller to lead Russia probe MORE's investigation prior to picking him to replace Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsInterior chief Zinke to leave administration Trump, Christie met to discuss chief of staff job: report Chief justice of California Supreme Court leaves GOP over Kavanaugh confirmation MORE as attorney general.

"I did not know that. I did not know he took views on the Mueller investigation as such," Trump said on "Fox News Sunday."

He added that he doesn't believe Whitaker's past statements had any effect on his choice once he learned of the comments.

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Whitaker, who as acting attorney general oversees the Mueller investigation, has written opinion pieces and appeared on cable news to advocate for curbing the scope of the Mueller investigation, suggest the attorney general stifle funding for the probe and assert Trump did not collude with Russia.

"He’s right. What do you do when a person’s right?" Trump said Sunday. "There is no collusion. He happened to be right.  I mean, he said it.  So if he said there is collusion, I’m supposed to be taking somebody that says there is?  Because then I wouldn’t take him for two reasons, but the No. 1 reason is the fact that he would have been wrong."

Trump frequently derides the Mueller investigation as a "witch hunt" and has repeatedly denied he colluded with Russia.

Democrats and watchdog organizations have raised concerns about Whitaker's appointment and called for him to recuse himself from overseeing the Mueller investigation due to his past comments.

Earlier this month, the president told reporters that he had not spoken with Whitaker about the investigation, and claimed he did not know him personally despite praising him in an October interview on Fox News.

On Sunday, Trump said he would not get involved with the Mueller investigation, and that he believes Whitaker will "do what's right" when faced with decisions about the special counsel.

"I think he’s astute politically. He’s a very smart person. A very respected person," Trump said. "He’s going to do what’s right. I really believe he’s going to do what’s right."

Trump added during the interview that he "probably" won't sit for an interview with the special counsel.

"I think we’ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt and the answer is probably we’re finished," Trump said.

A day earlier, the president told reporters Saturday that he would deliver his written responses to questions from Mueller next week, adding that "they're all done."