A top lawyer for Donald Trump indicated today that chances were growing that the president would not sit for an interview with the special counsel investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
While saying that Mr Trump wanted to testify, lawyer and former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani added, “It’s beginning to get resolved in favour of not doing it”.
Mr Giuliani has said before that the president’s legal team opposes such an interview with special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating Russian efforts to tip the 2016 election in Mr Trump’s favour.
The president’s lawyers fear an interview could lead to Trump inadvertently, and they say innocently, committing perjury.
But Giuliani’s comment on ABC’s “This Week” suggested that Trump’s lawyers were beginning to persuade the president of the dangers involved.
Asked about a memo from Trump’s legal team to Mueller in January — which conceded, after multiple White House denials, that the president himself dictated a misleading letter in July 2017 about a meeting involving his son Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer — Giuliani said, “That is why you don’t let the president testify. Our recollection keeps changing” and sometimes needs to be corrected.
That memo, first reported by the New York Times, also asserted that a president has full power over Justice Department investigations and therefore cannot be charged with obstruction of justice.
Mr Giuliani, who in January was not yet on the Trump legal team, was asked on ABC whether a president accused of a crime as serious as murder or bribery could terminate the investigation.
“I would not go that far,” he said.
But Giuliani, a former New York prosecutor, said a president “probably does” have the power to pardon himself, but insisted Trump had not intention to do so.
Another former New York prosecutor, Preet Bharara, said on CNN that the question of whether a president can be subpoenaed to testify “is basically untested”.
When the question arose in 1998, then-president Bill Clinton ultimately agreed voluntarily to submit to an interview about his relationship with a White House intern.
As to the possibility of a president pardoning himself, Bharara called it “outrageous” and “almost self-executing impeachment”.