U.S. President Donald Trump's attorney said Sunday the president's legal team is "close to determining" that he won't sit for an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign aimed at helping Trump win.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and Trump's lead attorney, told ABC News and CNN that Trump's lawyers want evidence from Mueller's investigators that Trump engaged in wrongdoing before agreeing to let him be questioned.
Trump has often said he is ready for an interview in Mueller's 14-month probe, but Giuliani told CNN, "We'd like to know if there's any factual basis for the investigation originally or the developed one, because we can't find one. Nor can anyone else." He said the prosecutors "don't have to prove a crime. They have to give us factual basis leading to some suspicion of a crime."
Giuliani told ABC, "We’ve been through everything on collusion and obstruction. We can’t find an incriminating anything, and we need a basis for this investigation.”
Mueller has been investigating Russian links to the Trump campaign and whether the president obstructed justice by firing James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, who was heading the agency's Russia probe before Mueller was appointed to take it over. There is no indication when the Mueller probe might end and his team has not publicly responded to Trump's frequent attacks on it, claiming it is biased against him.
Giuliani said, "If the president says, 'I fired him for the good of the United States,'" it was justification enough. Trump, however, told NBC anchor Lester Holt days after he ousted Comey in May 2017 that he was thinking of "this Russia thing" when he fired him. Trump has long contended that the investigation is an excuse by Democrats to explain his upset win over Democrat Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. secretary of state.
Giuliani contended that Mueller would not be pressing to interview Trump "if they had anything" against the president, although it is not known what evidence he may have collected.
Mueller could subpoena Trump to testify before a grand jury if he does not agree to an interview, but Giuliani said, "If he does, we could have it quashed." Any attempt to force Trump to testify could lead to a protracted legal fight that could eventually land before the Supreme Court for a decision.
Giuliani also said he had "zero" concern that Michael Cohen, a former Trump attorney who represented him for a decade while he was a New York real estate mogul and into the first year of his presidency, might provide prosecutors damaging information about Trump. Cohen, who has described himself as "the guy who would take a bullet" for Trump, is under investigation for making a $130,000 hush money payment shortly before the 2016 election to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who alleges that she had a one-night affair in 2006 with Trump shortly after Trump's wife Melania gave birth to their son.
Cohen has scrubbed a reference of his long-time representation of Trump from professional credentials, saying recently, "My wife, my daughter and my son have my first loyalty and always will," not the president.
Trump has said he does not see Cohen turning against him. Giuliani said Sunday, "I don't know what he has to flip. I do not expect Michael Cohen is going to lie."