NYT: Trump lawyers sent special counsel letter arguing President can't obstruct Russia probe

President Donald Trump's lawyers argued in a confidential January letter to special counsel Robert Mueller that the P...

Posted: Jun 3, 2018 2:39 PM
Updated: Jun 3, 2018 2:39 PM

President Donald Trump's lawyers argued in a confidential January letter to special counsel Robert Mueller that the President cannot illegally obstruct the Russia probe because he, as the top law enforcement officer, has authority over all federal investigations, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The 20-page letter from Trump attorney Jay Sekulow and then-Trump lawyer John Dowd, which CNN reported on last week and the Times has obtained, says that Trump could not possibly have committed obstruction in the Russia investigation because the Constitution empowers him to "terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired."

Trump's "actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself," Dowd and Sekulow wrote.

The two argued that "no President has ever faced charges of obstruction merely for exercising his constitutional authority" and that a President can "order the termination" of a Justice Department or FBI investigation "at any time and for any reason."

Trump's lawyers sent the letter as part of a broader argument that the President should not have to sit down with the special counsel.

Citing records handed over to the special counsel and interviews Mueller's team has had with White House staff, Sekulow and Dowd wrote in the letter, "In light of these voluntary offerings, your office clearly lacks the requisite need to personally interview the President."

Members of Trump's legal team had disagreed about whether to do the interview, and the team ended up formally responding on January 29 with the letter, which included materials from documents the special counsel already had in its possession and contained constitutional objections to requiring the President's testimony, CNN reported, citing sources briefed on discussions. According to one source, Trump reviewed the letter and approved it.

The letter from Trump's team threw a wrench into the discussions until early March, CNN reported. There were then two more meetings with the special counsel's team on March 5 and March 12. At the March 5 session, according to one of the sources, Mueller made the case that only Trump himself can talk about what his intent was regarding certain actions he took after assuming the presidency, which remains the Mueller team's position.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment to the Times.

In multiple letters sent to the special counsel, Trump's legal team has laid out its response to issues it thought the special counsel was examining in 2017 and 2018, CNN has reported. The first letter focused on what Trump's team sees as former FBI Director James Comey's lack of credibility as a potential witness. Sources did not provide CNN with further details of that letter.

Other communications to Mueller focused on constitutional issues regarding compelling presidential testimony, the question of whether there could even be an obstruction charge and a response to topics provided by Mueller, CNN has reported.

Dowd felt so strongly that Comey lacked credibility as a witness that he also sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggesting that he needed to take a look at Comey's credibility before proceeding with an investigation of the President. The letter not only mentioned Comey's conduct during the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server but also his behavior with the President. Dowd said he received a perfunctory response.

"They did nothing about it," Dowd told CNN at the time.

Mueller has raised the possibility of a presidential subpoena, sources have told CNN, and a version of Mueller's potential questions for the President was leaked and first published by the Times in April.

Trump has publicly said he would sit down with Mueller if he's treated fairly, despite concerns from some people close to the President that such an interview could expose him to possible charges of perjury.

On Twitter earlier Saturday, Trump said there was no collusion with Russia and asked when the special counsel investigation, which he called a "very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax," would conclude.

"Is the Special Counsel/Justice Department leaking my lawyers letters to the Fake News Media?" Trump wrote. "Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?"

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders referred CNN to Trump's outside counsel when asked for comment on his tweet speculating on whether the Justice Department or special counsel is the source behind the leaked correspondence between his legal team and Mueller.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
Tishomingo333288
Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
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