Donald Trump‘s lawyers are reportedly discussing ways in which the President could be interviewed as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into alleged ties between Russia and the Trump campaign.
Expecting that Mr Mueller will ask to interview Mr Trump, the President’s legal team is discussing a range of options for the format of such an interview, such as written responses to questions in lieu of a formal sit-down, according to NBC News.
Politico reported last year that Mr Trump’s cadre of attorneys wanted the President to be interviewed by Mr Mueller, believing that it could help the special counsel finish his investigation faster and dispel the allegations that Mr Trump committed any wrongdoing.
Mr Mueller is trying to determine if Mr Trump’s campaign advisers colluded with the Russian government to influence the 2016 presidential election.
That investigation also reportedly involves a probe into whether the President obstructed justice when he allegedly asked ex-FBI director James Comey to drop an inquiry into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.
Mr Flynn pleaded guilty in December to lying to the FBI about his conversations with the Russian ambassador, becoming the first senior White House official to cut a cooperation deal in Mr Mueller’s inquiry.
As the White House has been increasingly cooperating with Mr Mueller’s investigative team, there has been mounting anxiety – and disagreement – about how to respond to the prosecutor’s demands.
NBC reported on Monday that the President’s lawyers are looking for clarification on whether Mr Trump would be interviewed directly by Mr Mueller, as well as the legal standard for when a president can be interviewed, the location of a possible interview, the topics, and how long the discussion could last. But the President’s team could also be hoping to avoid an interview altogether.
There is also a question over whether Mr Trump could just sign an affidavit affirming that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
A meeting with Mr Mueller could pose serious risks for Mr Trump, as it would expose him to questions over some of his most controversial actions as president, including his firing of Mr Comey and his possible obstruction of justice.
Even if he has nothing to hide, Mr Trump has demonstrated a willingness to bend the truth – a quality that could cause headaches for his legal team.
The White House originally attributed Mr Trump’s decision to fire Mr Comey as a result of the former FBI director’s handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton. But in an interview with NBC two days after the firing, Mr Trump tied his actions directly to the FBI’s Russia probe. Mr Comey had been leading the investigation for the bureau at the time he was dismissed.
In June 2017, Mr Trump told reporters he was “100 percent” willing to testify under oath about alleged Russian ties to his campaign. He has also repeatedly denied allegations of collusion and has referred to the probes being conducted by congressional committees and Mr Mueller as a “witch hunt” and a “hoax”.