Special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has rejected the idea that President Donald Trump be allowed to answer questions in writing, according to a source familiar with the process, who also cautioned that it “doesn’t mean the last chapter’s been written on that.”
Mueller, who is overseeing the sprawling investigation into whether Trump campaign aides colluded with Russians to influence the 2016 election and into whether Trump obstructed justice, has been in talks with the president’s lawyers for months about the format of a potential interview.
In a conversation with POLITICO on Monday afternoon, Rudy Giuliani, who recently joined Trump’s outside group of lawyers, said Mueller’s team and Trump’s lawyers were still far apart on the negotiations for an interview. “We both have issues we want to resolve,” the former New York mayor said.
Among the Trump legal team’s demands: a chance to review the Justice Department internal records relating to the scope of Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
“We haven’t been given it. We’ve never seen it,” Giuliani said.
The Justice Department memo is already the source of controversy, and Trump last week suggested that he might intervene to get the classified records delivered to Congress. “At some point I will have no choice but to use the powers granted to the Presidency and get involved!” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team last month vowing to bring the Russia probe to a speedy end as it relates to the president. On Monday, Giuliani said there were still “a few weeks to go in making sure we know all the facts” before the president and his lawyers would be ready to make a final decision on whether they’d sit for an interview.
Timing is also wearing on Mueller, Giuliani said. “I think he’s getting sensitive to the fact they’ve gone on a little bit too long,” he said. “He’s certainly getting a certain degree of questioning about that. I’m not so concerned about that as I am about let’s see some kind of road to a close.”
Trump, in an apparent bid to show that he has nothing to hide, has expressed willingness to sit down for an interview with Mueller, telling reporters last week that he may even “override” his lawyers’ advice if he believes the special counsel would treat him fairly.
Giuliani, who has been on a media blitz that has caused more legal headaches for his new client, has stated that Trump should get the “Hillary Clinton treatment” with a two-and-a-half-hour interview and a prearranged format.
CBS News reported earlier on Tuesday that Giuliani said Mueller had rejected proposals for a written interview.
In his interview with POLITICO, Giuliani said he’d been distracted in his first weeks on the president’s team responding to the Stormy Daniels story and was leaning on Jay Sekulow and the Miami-based lawyer team of Jane and Martin Raskin in preparing the president’s response to the Mueller interview. “There’s a lot of legal research that has to be done and they’re directing it,” Giuliani said of the Raskins.
As for the interview, Trump is still hoping for a negotiated settlement with Mueller that leads to a face-to-face meeting, Giuliani said.
“I think the president would like that,” he said. “The question is, would his lawyers?”
Giuliani said he could see an agreement for the president to answer Mueller’s questions in person “if everything was lined up correctly.”
But he also quickly added, “Now I’m speaking for myself and not the other [Trump] lawyers, or not the number of amateur lawyers who opine on it on TV who say you shouldn’t testify no matter what, but they don’t know the case.”