Special counsel Robert Mueller plans to end a portion of his Russia investigation by September 1, according to former New York City Mayor, and current member of President Trump’s legal team, Rudy Giuliani.
Giuliani said Mueller is hoping to end the obstruction of justice aspect of his investigation by then because extending it further would risk influencing November’s midterm elections. The FBI and the Department of Justice traditionally avoid publicizing investigations involving politicians or political issues less than 60 days before an election.
Mueller is investigating whether the Russia government attempted to interfere in or influence the outcome of the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and whether members of the Trump campaign cooperated with those efforts.
Giuliani said Mueller informed him of the timeline about two weeks ago when the two were negotiating a face-to-face interview between Robert Mueller and President Trump. Giuliani and Mueller have known each other for decades from their respective work in federal law enforcement.
Giuliani also offered some insight into the Presidential legal team’s strategy in defense of any obstruction charges. He said they would frame the outcome of any potential charge as pitting the credibility of President Trump against that of former FBI Director James Comey.
Comey has testified to Congress, and written extensively, about several one-on-one interactions with Trump in which the President, among other things, asked Comey to drop an investigation into his former national security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, as well as demanded Comey’s “personal loyalty.”
The President fired Comey last May and his termination led directly to the establishment of Mueller’s investigation.
“We want the concentration of this to be on Comey versus the president’s credibility, and I think we win that and people get that,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani also said that he hoped the DOJ would open an investigation into Comey for perjury. The President has denied asking Comey to unduly influence any investigation on his behalf.
Giuliani also expressed the desire to have the Department of Justice look into disclosures Comey made, through a friend, to The New York Times of memos he had written documenting his one-on-one interactions with the President. Allies of the President’s routinely characterize those memos as classified information.
Comey says they were personal notes made extemporaneously after each interaction and were not of a confidential nature.
By attacking Comey, the President’s legal team seems to be targeting the potential main witness of any obstruction of justice case that may be brought. By declaring a public end date to that aspect of the investigation, the President’s team also seems to be applying pressure to Mueller to stick to that timeline.
That strategy seems to have been corroborated by a U.S. official familiar with Mueller’s probe, who called Giuliani’s claim of a September 1 deadline, “entirely made-up” and “another apparent effort to pressure the special counsel to hasten the end of his work.”
“[Mueller will] wrap it up when he thinks he’s turned over every rock, and when that is will depend on how cooperative witnesses, persons of interest and maybe even some targets are, if any of those emerge, and on what new evidence he finds, not on some arbitrary, first-of-the-month deadline one of the president’s attorneys cooks up,” the official told Reuters.
Photo by Marc Nozell via Wikimedia Commons