Exclusive: Trump begins informal prep for potential Mueller interview

President Donald Trump has begun the ini...

Posted: Apr 7, 2018 3:26 PM
Updated: Apr 7, 2018 3:26 PM

President Donald Trump has begun the initial steps of preparing for a possible interview with the special counsel, a White House official and a person familiar with the situation said Friday, a sign the President's legal team is intensifying its deliberations over whether to allow him to come under Robert Mueller's questioning.

One source familiar with the proceedings stressed the preparation efforts is "in its infancy."

The preparations have been short and informal and included going over potential topics with the President that Mueller would likely raise in an interview, the people said.

The President has not formally agreed to sit for an interview with Mueller.

But word of early preparations is the clearest sign yet that Trump and his team remain open to an interview with Mueller, despite concerns from some people close to the President that such an interview could expose him to possible charges of perjury.

Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer handling Mueller issues, and Jay Sekulow, the President's attorney, declined to comment.

Interview prospects

Outwardly, Trump has remained receptive to -- even enthusiastic about -- the prospect of sitting before Mueller, who is investigating whether his campaign colluded with Russia and whether Trump attempted to short-circuit the investigation itself. He has indicated that sitting for an interview himself could help bring the investigation to a swift end.

Privately, however, Trump has been more equivocal about answering Mueller's questions, depending on the day. Trump has wavered on his pledge as friends and advisers caution him of the risks of speaking to prosecutors who have already charged 19 individuals with criminal offenses, including lying.

The terms of how Trump would be questioned -- including whether he would speak under oath -- have not yet been determined. Even if he isn't questioned under oath, however, Trump could still open himself to charges if he lies to Mueller's team, since lying to the FBI is a crime.

Trump told reporters in January he was "looking forward" to an interview with Mueller, insisting there was no collusion between his campaign and Russia.

"I'd love to do it," Trump said, indicating that he'd been told by his lawyers an interview would take place in "two to three weeks."

Two-and-a-half months later, Trump's legal team has not committed to making Trump available to Mueller for an interview. Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, said this week that talks were continuing between Trump and his lawyers about a possible interview with Mueller.

"The President is working in conjunction with his legal team and making a determination," Sanders said on Tuesday. "We're continuing to be fully cooperative with the Office of the Special Counsel, and we'll continue driving the same message that we've been driving for over a year, that there was no collusion."

Investigation status

While Trump himself has not been submitted for questioning to Mueller, multiple White House officials have been made available to Mueller's team. The White House has also produced reams of documents for the special counsel.

Multiple aides to the President continue to describe him as obsessed with the Russia investigation, becoming increasingly agitated as details about the probe emerge. Trump feels the investigation undermines his presidency and has grown increasingly bitter that it has not yet concluded, the aides have said.

Members of the President's legal team have been negotiating for months with Mueller's office over potential topics that may be included in a presidential interview.

Attorneys on both sides sat down late last month in a rare face-to-face discussion about the topics investigators could inquire of the President. It was the first in-person meeting after several weeks of informal discussions between the two sides, according to two sources familiar with the talks.

In that session -- which Mueller himself did not attend -- the special counsel's team provided more specific details about the topics it had originally presented to Trump's lawyers months ago, which include the firing of FBI Director James Comey, attorney general Jeff Sessions involvement in that firing and Trump's knowledge of phone calls national security adviser Michael Flynn placed to the Russian ambassador in late 2016.

Deliberations over an interview with Mueller have proceeded amid tumult within the President's legal team. Midway through March, the lead lawyer, John Dowd, resigned amid disagreements with the President and increased scrutiny in the probe. That's left Jay Sekulow, an outside attorney, and Cobb, who works in the White House, as the remaining lawyers representing the President in this matter.

At least five major law firms have been invited -- but declined -- invitations to help Trump navigate the Mueller investigation.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 331863

Reported Deaths: 7494
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22855279
Hinds22625437
Harrison19462326
Rankin14765286
Jackson14233251
Madison10658227
Lee10398178
Jones8713169
Forrest8164157
Lauderdale7528243
Lowndes6761150
Lamar665988
Lafayette6446124
Washington5497139
Bolivar4907134
Pearl River4889149
Oktibbeha476898
Panola4719112
Marshall4648106
Warren4612125
Pontotoc438873
Monroe4243137
Union424379
Neshoba4179180
Lincoln4088115
Hancock402788
Leflore3562125
Pike3511111
Tate348988
Alcorn343174
Sunflower342293
Adams331987
Yazoo330573
Scott330175
Simpson313690
Copiah311467
Itawamba309580
Coahoma308285
Tippah298368
Prentiss292563
Covington280183
Marion278980
Leake277975
Wayne269942
Grenada265688
George259851
Newton256064
Tishomingo235769
Winston235084
Jasper225748
Attala220373
Chickasaw215960
Stone209137
Holmes194974
Clay191554
Tallahatchie181542
Clarke181480
Calhoun177332
Smith175334
Yalobusha169240
Walthall140448
Lawrence137026
Greene134934
Amite131843
Noxubee131135
Perry130838
Montgomery130644
Carroll124531
Webster116732
Jefferson Davis112934
Tunica110827
Benton104425
Claiborne104231
Kemper100329
Humphreys99033
Franklin85923
Quitman83519
Choctaw80919
Wilkinson73232
Jefferson69028
Sharkey51518
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 565510

Reported Deaths: 11468
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson828061584
Mobile44938853
Madison36534532
Tuscaloosa26589465
Shelby26409255
Montgomery25598623
Baldwin23319324
Lee16691179
Calhoun15030332
Morgan14877288
Etowah14563368
Marshall12723235
Houston11302292
Elmore10576217
St. Clair10449251
Limestone10420158
Cullman10198204
Lauderdale9883253
DeKalb9226191
Talladega8705187
Walker7545286
Autauga7388113
Jackson7216117
Blount7147139
Colbert6522142
Coffee5962131
Dale5224117
Russell463942
Chilton4603117
Covington4502125
Franklin439781
Tallapoosa4343156
Escambia414782
Chambers3813124
Dallas3674163
Clarke361562
Marion3354106
Pike323179
Lawrence3176101
Winston289672
Bibb276165
Geneva267383
Marengo257367
Barbour241860
Pickens238862
Butler233571
Hale230578
Fayette223863
Henry203345
Cherokee192347
Randolph192244
Monroe190241
Washington174539
Macon167252
Crenshaw163457
Clay161859
Cleburne158445
Lamar149138
Lowndes143854
Wilcox128431
Bullock125342
Conecuh117730
Coosa115229
Perry109628
Sumter107532
Greene95935
Choctaw63125
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