Trump would fight special counsel subpoena to testify on Russia in court, says president's lawyer
Special counsel Robert Mueller has been in negotiations with the president’s legal team about questioning about his campaign’s alleged collusion with Russia during the 2016 election. The president has said – at least in public – he wants to sit down and talk with Mr Mueller and his lawyer said the ultimate decision would be Mr Trump’s.
“If Mueller were to try to compel the president’s testimony, there would be a legal fight over the constitutionality of requiring such an act of a sitting president, Mr Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow, told ABC News.
“A subpoena for live testimony has never been tested in court as to the president of the United States.”
In January, Mr Trump said he was prepared to testify under oath, claiming he believed any such session would clear him of any suspicions he had been involved in colluding with Russia.
“I’m looking forward to it actually,” Trump told reporters in the West Wing. “There has been no collusion whatsoever, there has been no obstruction whatsoever.”
Yet, his various lawyers have always been opposed to the idea, fearful the president may not retain the sort of discipline they would require of him if he were to sit down with Mr Mueller.
Rather, they have playing for time and instead exploring the possibly of responding to written questions. Last week, it was reported by the New York Times Mr Mueller had told the president’s lawyers he would agree to written responses, if in-person follow questions were permitted.
Mr Trump’s lawyers reportedly disliked this idea, but the president told his team to keep negotiating, convinced that he could show Mr Mueller he did nothing wrong.
Pres. Trump’s attorney Jay Sekulow says if special counsel Robert Mueller were to subpoena Trump to testify in the Russia investigation, it would spark a legal battle that would go to the Supreme Court https://t.co/TntFm8iqcl #ThisWeek pic.twitter.com/O51QOpUwzv
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) August 5, 2018
If Mr Trump refused to agree to questioning, Mr Mueller could try and obtain a subpoena, forcing him to appear. But Mr Sekulow claimed the president had the authority under Article II of the US Constitution to stop any investigation conducted by the Department of Justice. The article enumerates the powers of the executive branch of the federal government, Reuters said.
One part of Mr Mueller’s inquiry and congressional investigations has focused on a meeting months before the November election in Trump Tower in New York between Russian officials, Donald Trump Jr, the president’s eldest son, and other campaign aides.
While originally Mr Trump said the meeting was about adoptions, on Sunday he said on Twitter that it was about getting information on his election opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Mr Trump and his son have both said then-candidate Trump had no advance knowledge of the meeting and that the meeting itself was not useful to the campaign. CNN reported last month that Michael Cohen, the president’s longtime personal lawyer and self-described “fixer“ was willing to tell Mr Mueller that Mr Trump did know about the meeting in advance.
On Sunday morning, Trump responded to reports in the Washington Post and on CNN that he was concerned Donald Jr could be in legal trouble.
He wrote: “Fake News reporting, a complete fabrication, that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent, totally legal and done all the time in politics – and it went nowhere. I did not know about it!”
Mr Trump has always denied colluding with Russia during the 2016 election. Russian president Vladimir Putin has likewise denied his nation interfered in the process.
The US intelligence community just last week said it stood by its assessment that Russia had interfered and was trying to again. After a controversial summit in Helsinki last month with Mr Putin during which the president appeared to say he trusted the Russian leader’s denials as much as the claims of his intelligence officials, Mr Trump belatedly read from written remarks to say he accepted Russia – and perhaps “others” – had sought to intervene in the election.