A Trump-Mueller interview may be back on the table

Alex Wong/Getty ImagesRobert Mueller.

  • President Donald Trump’s legal team, led by former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, is once again in talks with the special counsel Robert Mueller about an interview with Trump.
  • Trump was reportedly “champing at the bit” to sit down with Mueller, but he soured on the special counsel following the FBI raids of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen’s property.
  • Interviewing Trump and determining whether he had “corrupt intent” is central to helping prosecutors determine whether he sought to obstruct justice in the Russia probe.
  • Mueller’s team has indicated to Trump’s lawyers that they would ask about four key events during an interview: the firing of FBI director James Comey; the firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn; Trump’s role in drafting a misleading statement his son released in response to reports that he met with two Russian lobbyists at Trump Tower in June 2016; and Trump’s knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting.

An interview between President Donald Trump and the special counsel Robert Mueller may once again be in play.

According to The Washington Post, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who is the newest member of Trump’s legal team, broached the subject of a presidential interview with Mueller when he met with the special counsel on Tuesday.

The presidential interview has long been a topic of hot debate on Trump’s legal team. Earlier this year, John Dowd, the seasoned white-collar defence attorney who was leading Trump’s negotiations with Mueller’s office, resigned amid frustration that Trump was not following his advice to decline an interview.

But though the president was reportedly “champing at the bit” to sit down with Mueller, things screeched to a halt when it surfaced that the FBI raided the property of Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen.

After learning of the raids, Trump is said to have become enraged and backed away from cooperating with Mueller.

When they met on Tuesday, Giuliani reportedly pressed Mueller for details about when the Russia investigation would end. In response, Mueller said he would like the chance to ask Trump questions about certain events that are crucial to the obstruction-of-justice case he has been building since Trump fired FBI director James Comey last year.

Mueller’s team has indicated to Trump’s lawyers that prosecutors will ask him questions about four key events during an interview:

  • Comey’s firing
  • The firing of national security adviser Michael Flynn
  • Trump’s role in crafting a misleading statement that his son released in response to reports that he met with two Russian lobbyists at Trump Tower in June 2016
  • Trump’s knowledge of the Trump Tower meeting

In addition to those events, investigators will also likely ask Trump about his heightened anger toward attorney general Jeff Sessions, who recused himself from the Russia probe last year.

Trump’s attacks against Sessions intensified last summer, when the president said he would not have tapped the “beleaguered” former Alabama senator for attorney general had he known Sessions would recuse himself.

Securing an interview with Trump is central to prosecutors being able to prove whether or not he had “corrupt intent” when he made the decisions he did with respect to the Russia probe.

As Mueller nears the end of the obstruction probe, he is said to be preparing a report about Trump’s actions in office and possible obstruction of justice.

That Mueller is preparing a report, as opposed to bringing criminal charges, could indicate one of three things, according to Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Department of Justice:

  1. The president did nothing wrong and will not be charged.
  2. Mueller found some indication of criminal activity but might not have enough evidence to indict Trump.
  3. Mueller does have enough evidence to indict Trump but may decide he does not have the authority to charge the president based on Department of Justice precedent.

Mueller is mandated to provide reports of his findings to Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general who appointed him as the special counsel in May 2017. But whether those findings are released to the public is Rosenstein’s decision.

Alex Whiting, a former federal prosecutor who is now a professor at Harvard Law School, said he found it “striking” that “Mueller seems to be preparing the report with an expectation that it will eventually become public.”

He added: “Once the investigation is completed, I think it will be very difficult to keep Mueller’s conclusions secret.”

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