- Special counsel Robert Mueller threatened President Donald Trump and his legal team that he could subpoena Trump if he refuses to testify under oath in the Russia investigation.
- The alleged threat came as Trump’s legal team and the special counsel’s office were negotiating terms of a one-on-one interview with the president, which, at the time, Trump said he did not want to grant.
- The development sheds new light on the internal wrangling between the special counsel’s office and Trump, as the probe of Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election gains new momentum.
The special counsel Robert Mueller threatened President Donald Trump’s legal team with a grand-jury subpoena in March if Trump refuses to voluntarily sit down with prosecutors conducting the Russia investigation.
That apparent threat came during negotiations between Mueller’s office and Trump’s lawyers, at a time when the president’s legal team asserted that they had no obligation to answer questions from Mueller under oath.
John Dowd, the former Trump attorney who managed communications between his team and Mueller’s office, confirmed that exchange to the Associated Press and Reuters on Tuesday. The Washington Post first reported the news.
Citing two people with knowledge of the conversations, The Post said that Dowd snapped back at Mueller’s team: “This is not a game,” Dowd reportedly said according to the newspaper. “You are screwing with the work of the president of the United States.”
The development sheds new light on the internal wrangling between Trump’s lawyers and the special counsel over the interview that Mueller wants with the president.
Over the last year, Trump has expressed his willingness to sit down with Mueller, but changed course last month after properties belonging to his longtime personal attorney, Michael Cohen, were raided by the FBI in an unrelated case.
More recently, those discussions were said to be back on, after Trump hired former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a loyal supporter of the president, to join his legal team.
In what some legal experts have viewed as a key concession to Trump’s team, Mueller provided Trump’s lawyers with an outline of the subjects he wants to talk to the president about. Jay Sekulow, one of Trump’s lawyers, then produced a list of prospective questions based on that outline.
The New York Times published a sampling of those questions on Monday night – some of which get at the collusion question between Trump’s campaign and Russian operatives who sought to influence the US election.
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