U.S. prosecutors have determined that if President Donald Trump is accused of wrongdoing, he will not be indicted in the year-old investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and whether he obstructed justice to thwart the probe, one of his attorneys said Thursday.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who recently joined Trump's legal team, told Fox News' Fox & Friends show that in recent days he had been told by special counsel Robert Mueller's lawyers that they would adhere to long-standing Justice Department policy and, even if they found credible evidence of criminal wrongdoing, not act to indict the sitting president.
"All they can do is write a report and [no matter] how bad that is," Giuliani said, "we can deal with that. We can write, too."
Giuliani said the prosecutors could present their report to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees Mueller's investigation and could in turn pass it on to the House of Representatives. House lawmakers could, if they saw fit, start impeachment proceedings against Trump.
"It's all about a possible impeachment," Giuliani said. Legal experts say prosecutors, if warranted, could also deem Trump to be an unindicted co-conspirator in court documents.
Trump again rejected wrongdoing in the case on Thursday as he marked the one-year anniversary of Mueller's appointment by Rosenstein. The No. 2 Justice Department official assumed control of the case a year ago after Attorney General Jeff Sessions, over Trump's repeated objections, removed himself from oversight of the investigation because of his own contacts with Russia's ambassador to Washington during the presidential campaign.
But Wednesday, Christopher Wray, the director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation who was appointed by Trump, told a congressional hearing he does not believe Mueller's investigation is a witch hunt, Trump's favorite epithet for it.
In a second tweet, Trump cited a New York Times story that an FBI informant may have been embedded in his campaign.
"If so, this is bigger than Watergate!" Trump said, alluding to the 1972 political scandal that led to the eventual resignation of President Richard Nixon.
Mueller's investigation is ongoing and there is no hint it will end soon.
He has secured guilty pleas from a handful of Trump associates, including his former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former campaign foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos, both of whom pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about their contacts with Russians. Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, accused of criminal wrongdoing linked to his lobbying efforts in Ukraine that predates the 2016 election campaign, faces a trial later this year.
Trump's lawyers and Mueller's team have been negotiating whether Trump will sit for an interview about the Russian election meddling and whether he obstructed justice by firing former FBI director James Comey a year ago when he was heading the Russia investigation before Mueller was appointed.
"I think the investigation should be thrown out," Giuliani said. He contended the probe was started "with an illegal act," Comey's disclosure of private White House conversations with Trump before the president ousted him.
"The president wants to testify," Giuliani said in the Fox interview. He said Mueller's lawyers "believe they can examine his motives" for various actions he has taken as president, including firing Comey.
Mueller has threatened to subpoena Trump if their respective legal teams cannot reach an agreement on a voluntary interview.
But Giuliani contended that Mueller "won't be able to subpoena" Trump, which could lead to a legal fight over an issue that might have to be resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court, whether a sitting U.S. president can be forced to answer questions under oath before a grand jury.
Giuliani, in other interviews, has suggested that Trump, if forced to appear before the grand jury and answer questions under oath, could exercise his constitutional right against self-incrimination and refuse to answer.
Giuliani said Trump might sit for an interview with Mueller's team, but said, "We'll only do that if we can shorten it." Giuliani said Trump's attorneys "would be the laughing stock of lawyers if we let him testify" in an open-ended proceeding.
"The president is completely innocent," Giuliani said.