Even as he has publicly criticized the special counsel in charge of the government's investigation into Russia, President Donald Trump has used his lawyers to send more friendly private messages to the counsel's office, USA Today reported Tuesday.
Trump's chief counsel John Dowd told the paper that Trump's team has passed along messages of "appreciation and greetings" to special counsel Robert Mueller. Such overtures are seen as not very common.
"He appreciates what Bob Mueller is doing,'' Dowd said. "He asked me to share that with him and that's what I've done.''
Another lawyer familiar with the matter told NBC News on Tuesday evening that it was not true that "substantive" messages were passed back and forth between the Dowd and Mueller other than "pleasantries."
The lawyer said it was true that Dowd has told Mueller the president asked him to assure the special counsel that he respects Mueller's responsibilities and has directed his attorneys to cooperate fully. Mueller has been respectful and equally polite in return, according to the source.
The president has denied that his campaign colluded with Russia and has slammed the merits of the investigation. After reports surfaced earlier this year that Trump might be a target of the Mueller investigation, he called it a "witch hunt" and questioned the investigators.
You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2017
Trump was heavily scrutinized for citing the Russia investigation as a reason he dismissed former FBI Director James Comey. Mueller was appointed as special counsel for the investigation shortly after that move.
Last week the Wall Street Journal reported Mueller had tapped multiple grand juries in the probe.