WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump "adamantly' wants to answer questions in the criminal investigation of his 2016 campaign's links with Russia, but one of his lawyers says he remains skeptical about allowing Trump to face prosecutors' queries about whether he obstructed justice by trying to thwart the probe.
Trump lawyer, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, told CNN on Sunday that special counsel Robert Mueller wants to question the president about two key topics: possible collusion with Russia in the months before the election and whether he sought as president to block the investigation by firing FBI director James Comey while he was heading the Russia probe before Mueller was appointed to take over.
"The collusion part we're pretty comfortable about because there has been none," Giuliani said. "The obstruction part I'm not as comfortable with. I'm not. The president's fine with it. He's innocent. I'm not comfortable because it's a matter of interpretation, not just hard and fast, true and not true."
Giuliani added that "if you interpret his comment about firing Comey ... if you interpret that as obstructing the investigation, as opposed to removing a guy who's doing a bad job .... if you see it as obstructing the investigation, then you can say it's obstruction."
Giuliani said the president's legal team is worried that Trump could be trapped into perjury — the criminal offense of lying under oath — in answering prosecutors' questions about his reasoning for firing Comey. Initially, the White House said Trump ousted Comey because he allegedly mishandled the FBI's investigation into the use of a private email server by Trump's 2016 opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, while she was the U.S. secretary of state from 2009 to 2013.
Within days, however, Trump told NBC that he was going to fire Comey in any event and was thinking of "this Russia thing" when he ousted him because he thought it was a phony investigation used by Democrats to explain Clinton's upset loss.
Whatever the misgivings of Trump's lawyers about letting him face prosecutors' questions, Giuliani said, "He's adamantly wanting to do it."
But Giuliani said that ultimately the decision of whether Trump meets with Mueller's team depends on "how comfortable we are in them being open-minded" and believing that prosecutors had not decided in advance that Trump was complicit in wrong-doing.
Asked how he was "so sure" there had not been any collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian interests, Giuliani, a one-time prosecutor, said, "Fifty years of investigative experience tells me they don't have a darn thing."
Giuliani said that when he was part of the campaign, "No one knew about Russia, nobody talked about Russia."
Trump has often assailed the investigation and did so again Sunday, calling it a "phony Russia Collusion Wiitch Hunt," and a "Rigged Investigation!"
Who’s going to give back the young and beautiful lives (and others) that have been devastated and destroyed by the phony Russia Collusion Witch Hunt? They journeyed down to Washington, D.C., with stars in their eyes and wanting to help our nation...They went back home in tatters!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2018
Why didn’t the 13 Angry Democrats investigate the campaign of Crooked Hillary Clinton, many crimes, much Collusion with Russia? Why didn’t the FBI take the Server from the DNC? Rigged Investigation!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2018
Giuliani has said in recent days that ultimately there won't be any criminal charges brought against Trump, in keeping with long-standing Justice Department guidelines that a sitting president cannot be charged. But Giuliani said, based on what Mueller concludes about Trump's actions, Congress could eventually face a decision whether to impeach Trump, leading to a Senate trial on whether he should be removed from office.
The Trump lawyer said that any sit-down with Mueller's prosecutors would not occur until after the still-possible June 12 summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore.