President Donald Trump’s legal team may offer special counsel Robert Mueller an interview with the president in the hopes of speeding up the Russia investigation, Politico reported Thursday.
The special counsel is investigating Trump in particular for obstruction of justice related to the firing of FBI director James Comey, as well as examining his role in crafting a misleading statement his son, Donald Trump Jr., released in response to reports that he met with a Russian lawyer offering dirt on Hillary Clinton last June.
Though the prospect of an interview with Mueller could pose a risk for Trump, who’s been known to act impulsively in the past, a White House official signalled to Politico that they had no reason to resist a face-to-face meeting between the president and the special counsel.
“Whatever happens with regard to whether or not, or how, the special counsel might want to interview the president, there’s no reason to expect that would be combative,” the official said.
But John Dowd, Trump’s personal lawyer, characterised the official’s account as “totally false” after Politico published the story, despite declining to comment when the outlet initially reached out to him for comment.
Ty Cobb, the white-collar defence attorney spearheading Trump’s legal team, has advocated for a more open approach to the Russia probe, reportedly telling Dowd over lunch in September that he wanted to turn over as many documents as possible to speed up the investigation.
But Don McGahn, the White House counsel, has resisted because he believes Trump will be able to assert executive privilege over many of their interactions.
Cobb told Business Insider that Politico’s story was “an odd piece” and that there have been no “internal or external discussions” about offering Mueller an interview with Trump.
Solomon Wisenberg, an attorney who worked under special prosecutor Kenneth Starr during the investigation into former president Bill Clinton, told Politico that though he’s not sure Mueller will even ask for an interview with Trump. If he did, he said, it would be near the end of the investigation.
“You certainly don’t want to have to ask him twice,” he told Politico. “You want this investigation as wrapped up as it can be.”
But Robert Bennett, an attorney who spearheaded Clinton’s legal defence team during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, disputed that, telling Politico that Mueller has done “a tremendous amount of work already and probably could do the interview [with Trump] sooner rather than later.”
Mueller “would want to get this guy on the record as quick as possible,” he said.
In addition to Trump himself, the special counsel’s investigation currently encompasses several of Trump’s closest associates, including former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, former national security adviser Michael Flynn, and senior adviser Jared Kushner.
Mueller is also interested in interviewing or has already interviewed key White House staffers who were witness to critical events that could be examined as part of the investigation, including the firing of former FBI director James Comey, the drafting of Trump Jr.’s statement about his meeting with a Russian lawyer, and the White House’s response to revelations that Flynn could be vulnerable to Russian blackmail.
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