President Trump’s legal team, in a letter written to special counsel Robert Mueller, said the President did not obstruct justice in the ongoing Russia probe. The letter says one of the reasons the President cannot be found to have obstructed justice is the fact that as President, Mr. Trump has the authority to end any and all federal investigations.
The memo was written in response to requests from Mueller’s team to interview the President face-to-face on several topics in the Russia investigation. Most of them concern the President’s actions toward his former National Security Advisor Gen. Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey.
Flynn was forced to resign early in the administration’s tenure as he was found to have lied to the FBI about conversations with a Russian Ambassador. Comey was fired in May 2017 purportedly for the way in which he handled the Hillary Clinton email investigation in 2016. Subsequent comments by the President hinted that Comey was in fact fired for failing to bring about an end to the Russia investigation.
The letter was written by two of the President’s lawyers at the time, Jay Sekulow and John Dowd, and was hand delivered to Mueller’s team on January 29, 2018.
“It remains our position that the President’s actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could, if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired,” the President’s attorneys wrote.
The letter alludes to the voluminous amount of evidence Mueller’s team has collected on many of the issues they wished to question the President about from other sources.
“After reviewing the list of topics you presented, it is abundantly clear…that all of the answers to your inquiries are contained in the exhibits and testimony that have already been voluntarily provided to you by the White House and witnesses, all of which clearly show that there was no collusion with Russia, and that no FBI investigation was or even could have been obstructed,” they wrote.
The President’s lawyers also wrote that the inquiry has hindered the President and hinted that it is, and has been from the start, a biased investigation.
“We express again, as we have expressed before, that the Special Counsel’s inquiry has been and remains a considerable burden for the President and his Office, has endangered the safety and security of our country, and has interfered with the President’s ability to both govern domestically and conduct foreign affairs,” they wrote.
“This encumbrance has been only compounded by the astounding public revelations about the corruption within the FBI and Department of Justice which appears to have led to the alleged Russia collusion investigation and the establishment of the Office of Special Counsel in the first place.”
Whether the President sits for an in-person interview with Mueller has been the the subject of intense speculation in recent months. The President has in the past said that he would be open to doing so but seems to have backed off that position recently.
Former New York City Mayor and early Trump supporter Rudy Giuliani joined the President’s legal team in April. It was said at the time that he was brought in to negotiate interview terms between Mueller and Trump. “I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller,” Giuliani said when his hiring was announced.
President Trump said in a statement at the time that Giuliani “wants to get this matter quickly resolved.”
Mueller and Giuliani have known each other for decades through their work in federal law enforcement. Giuliani was the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York in the 1980s.
The letter by Dowd and Sekulow seems to be an attempt to head off a subpoena issued by Mueller’s team forcing Mr. Trump to testify. Giuliani has said a Mueller subpoena is not something the President would have to comply with, and that if one were issued, Mr. Trump may invoke his Fifth Amendment right and not testify.
“Not after the way they’ve acted. I came into this case with the desire to do that, and they just keep convincing me not to do that,” Giuliani said last month when asked whether he would recommend to the President that he sit for an interview.
“You couldn’t put a lawyer on the show who wants to keep his law license to tell you he should testify,” he said on ABC’s This Week.
In another visit to the program this morning, Giuliani said the prospects for a presidential sit-down with Mueller remain dim.
“Jay and I want to keep an open mind – and I have to just be honest – we’re leaning toward not [recommending the President do so],” Giuliani said.
“But look, if they can convince us that it will be brief, it will be to the point, there were five or six points they have to clarify, and with that we can get this long nightmare for the American public over.”
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