U.S. President Donald Trump signaled Wednesday he thinks negotiations over North Korea's nuclear weapons and international trade deals are more important than the criminal investigation into his campaign's links to Russia and whether he has tried to obstruct the probe.
"There was no Collusion ... and there is no Obstruction of Justice ...," Trump said in his latest Twitter remark about the investigation. "What there is is Negotiations going on with North Korea ... Negotiations going on with China over Trade Deficits," he added, also referencing the NAFTA deal with Canada and Mexico.
There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap). What there is is Negotiations going on with North Korea over Nuclear War, Negotiations going on with China over Trade Deficits, Negotiations on NAFTA, and much more. Witch Hunt!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2018
Trump's assessment of the investigation that has consumed his 15-month presidency came as his lawyers brace for a possible legal showdown over whether he will have to answer questions from special counsel Robert Mueller. U.S. news outlets reported that at a tense meeting two months ago, Trump's lawyers said the president had no obligation to answer prosecutors' questions, with Mueller responding that he could subpoena Trump to appear before a grand jury.
Subpoenaing a sitting president could lead to a legal fight the U.S. Supreme Court would have to decide, although a basic American legal concept is that no one is above the law, including a president.
Trump has said several times he is willing to answer prosecutors' questions, but lately may have cooled on the idea, fuming almost every day on Twitter about the case. Associates say he was particularly incensed after FBI agents recently raided the New York office and home of his personal attorney, Michael Cohen, in a search of records about the lawyer's business transactions and interactions with Trump.
Some of Trump's lawyers have advised him against answering Mueller's questions, fearing that Trump, often given to exaggerations and accused of outright falsehoods, could be trapped by the questioning, as the president suggested in Wednesday's Twitter comment.
The New York Times Tuesday published a list of 49 questions it said Mueller wants to ask Trump as part of the investigation. The newspaper reported that the list was compiled by Trump's lawyers based on questions that were read to them by special counsel investigators.
The largely open-ended questions range from queries about Trump's firing of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and former FBI Director James Comey, to general inquiries into what Trump knew about alleged coordination between his 2016 presidential campaign and Russia. If Trump sits for an interview with Mueller's team, the general questions could lead to dozens more, depending on the president's responses.
Power to fire
In a second tweet Wednesday, Trump quoted one of his supporters, former federal prosecutor Joseph diGenova, as saying that U.S. presidents have the unlimited power to fire any official in the government if they want to do so.
“The questions are an intrusion into the President’s Article 2 powers under the Constitution to fire any Executive Branch Employee...what the President was thinking is an outrageous.....as to the President’s unfettered power to fire anyone...” Joe Digenova, former US Attorney— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 2, 2018
Trump denounced the revelation of the Mueller questions on Tuesday. "So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were "leaked" to the media. No questions on Collusion," he tweeted.
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Collusion. Oh, I see...you have a made up, phony crime, Collusion, that never existed, and an investigation begun with illegally leaked classified information. Nice!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 1, 2018
Despite Trump's claim, however, there were numerous questions regarding Trump campaign links to Russia.