WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump's attorney said Sunday that his legal team will not allow special counsel Robert Mueller to question Trump about his firing last year of former FBI director James Comey.
Comey, at the time Trump ousted him in May 2017, was chief of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and heading the agency's investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, leading to conjecture whether Trump obstructed justice in trying to thwart the Russia probe. Days after ousting Comey, Trump said he was thinking of "this Russia thing" when he decided to dismiss him. Mueller was soon appointed to take over the Russia probe.
"We're not going to take any questions on Comey," Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN in an interview.
Giuliani, a former New York mayor, said that Trump, who often misstates facts, runs of the risk of being accused by Mueller's investigators of committing perjury, a criminal offense for lying. He contended that "the purpose" of Mueller's interview of Trump "is to create a perjury trap."
Comey, in numerous interviews since his dismissal and in a best-selling book, contends that Trump, months before the president fired him, asked him in a White House meeting to "go easy" on investigating Michael Flynn, Trump's first national security adviser. Trump had fired Flynn in the early days of his presidency for lying about his contacts with Russia's then-ambassador to Washington, with Flynn subsequently pleading guilty to lying to FBI agents about his Russia contacts.
But Giuliani contended in the CNN interview that Trump and Comey "never discussed Michael Flynn," and that if they had, the "go easy" comment "is hardly obstruction."
Giuliani and other Trump lawyers have been negotiating for months with Mueller over terms of a possible interview of Trump, but no agreement has been reached.
There is no announced end to Mueller's 15-month investigation, but Giuliani said he believes Mueller wants to conclude it in the next three weeks, roughly two months ahead of the nationwide November 6 congressional elections, so as to not influence voting.
Trump, in Sunday tweets from his golf resort in New Jersey, quoted supporters' comments on his favorite Fox News shows deriding the Mueller investigation.
In one of the remarks, Trump cited Republican Congressman Darrell Issa of California as saying, “Seems like the Department of Justice [and FBI] had a program to keep Donald Trump from becoming President."
Trump claimed, "If this had happened to the other side, everybody involved would be in jail. This is a Media coverup of the biggest story of our time."