WASHINGTON - U.S. President Donald Trump's attorney Rudy Giuliani says it is an "open question" whether Trump will answer questions from investigators probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election, but that his legal team is leaning to not allowing him to be interviewed.
Trump has long said he wants to answer questions from special counsel Robert Mueller, but on Sunday Giuliani told ABC News, "It's beginning to get resolved" to not permitting the U.S. leader to sit for questioning. Giuliani has suggested Trump could be caught in a perjury trap, and charged with lying under oath, a criminal offense.
Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, said Trump's legal team might allow an interview if it is "brief, to the point," but are "leaning to not."
Trump lawyers contended in a 20-page letter to Mueller in January, before Giuliani joined the president's legal team, that he cannot be compelled to testify through a subpoena and argued he could not have obstructed justice by firing FBI director James Comey when he was leading the Russia investigation because as president he has unlimited power to terminate the investigation.
Giuliani called the letter, first disclosed Saturday by The New York Times, "very, very persuasive," but said Trump's lawyers would contest in court any attempt to subpoena Trump to answer questions.
Giuliani said Trump's lawyers would tell Mueller's team that "you've got everything you need, 1.4 million documents, 28 witnesses" to conclude its investigation.
"So we'll say, 'Come on, own up and make your decision," Giuliani said. Adding, Trump "believes he's telling the truth. He is telling the truth" that there was no collusion with Russia to help him win and that he did not obstruct justice.
The Trump lawyer said "at best there was ambiguity" whether Trump obstructed justice in his dismissal of Comey in May 2017, which then led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, over Trump's objections, to name Mueller to lead the probe.
Within days of ousting Comey, Trump said that when he dismissed him he was thinking of "this Russia thing," because he thought it was a made-up excuse by Democrats looking for a reason for Trump's upset win over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Last week, Trump said that was not the reason, but offered no other explanation.
Giuliani said Trump, who has pardoned notable conservative figures who have been convicted of crimes, has "no intention of pardoning himself," but added that "it would be an open question" whether he could do so, acknowledging there would be a political firestorm in the United States if he did.
Giuliani said he believes Mueller will conclude the investigation by September 1, "so we can get this long nightmare over for the American people."
Long-standing Justice Department rules have concluded that a sitting president cannot be indicted for criminal wrongdoing. But Mueller could lay out his findings in a report that could eventually be turned over to Congress, where lawmakers could, if they decided there was wrongdoing by Trump, pursue his impeachment.
Trump in recent days has contended that the Federal Bureau of Investigation planted a "spy" in his campaign, although there is no evidence that the investigative agency embedded anyone in the Trump operations ahead of the November 2016 vote. But an FBI informant, Stefan Halper, an American-born professor at Britain's University of Cambridge, reported to the FBI about conversations he had with three Trump campaign officials as part of its investigation into Russian interference in the election.
A leading Republican lawmaker, Congressman Trey Gowdy, said last week the FBI did nothing wrong, but Giuliani said he has "tremendous suspicion" that the operation was meant to spy on the Trump campaign.
Trump on Sunday offered three more Twitter comments on the election and Mueller investigation.
He quoted conservative Fox News analyst Jesse Watters as saying, “The only thing Trump obstructed was Hillary getting to the White House.” So true!"
Jesse Watters “The only thing Trump obstructed was Hillary getting to the White House.” So true!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2018
Trump also complained about Mueller's indictment of Paul Manafort, for three months his campaign manager in mid-2016, who was charged with criminal offenses linked to his lobbying efforts for Ukraine that predated his involvement with the Trump operations.
"As one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of “Justice” have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign? Should have told me!" Trump said.
As only one of two people left who could become President, why wouldn’t the FBI or Department of “Justice” have told me that they were secretly investigating Paul Manafort (on charges that were 10 years old and had been previously dropped) during my campaign? Should have told me!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2018
"Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!" Trump concluded.
....Paul Manafort came into the campaign very late and was with us for a short period of time (he represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole & many others over the years), but we should have been told that Comey and the boys were doing a number on him, and he wouldn’t have been hired!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 3, 2018