Mueller explains why his family left Trump's golf club

President had claimed it was conflict of interest

By Kate Sullivan, CNN

Special counsel Robert Mueller explained for the first time why he and his family left President Donald Trump's Virginia golf club in the redacted version of his report released on Thursday.

The footnote on pages 80 and 81 of the redacted report released by the Justice Department on Thursday was one of the only times Mueller defended himself against criticism from the President. Trump had previously used the fact that Mueller and his family left the club to claim he had a conflict of interest.

In October 2011, Mueller wrote a letter to the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, resigning his family's membership, explaining, "we live in the District and find that we are unable to make full use of the Club," according to footnote 529 in the redacted report. In the same letter, Mueller asked "whether we would be entitled to a refund of a portion of our initial membership fee," which the report says was paid in 1994.

The club responded about two weeks later saying the resignation would be effective October 31, 2011, and that they would be "placed on a waitlist to be refunded on a first resigned / first refunded basis," according to the report.

The Muellers did not have further contact with the club, the report reads.

Over the course of Mueller's nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and potential coordination between his associates and Russia, Trump relentlessly bashed and undermined the probe, calling it a "witch hunt" and a "hoax."

According to the report, in the days after Mueller was appointed, Trump repeatedly told advisers -- including former White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and former White House counsel Don McGahn -- that Mueller had conflicts of interest.

"The President cited as conflicts that Mueller had interviewed for the FBI Director position shortly before being appointed as Special Counsel, that he had worked for a law firm that represented people affiliated with the President, and that Mueller had disputed certain fees relating to his membership in a Trump golf course in Northern Virginia," the report reads.

The President's advisers told him these were not "true conflicts," according to the report, and Bannon told Trump the alleged golf course conflict of interest was "ridiculous and petty."

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