Mueller’s team has also made clear it is seeking a sit-down interview with Trump, according to these sources. The President said Wednesday he is “looking forward” to that interview, subject to the advice of his lawyers.
As the President’s attorneys try to whittle down Mueller’s areas of interest, a source familiar with the matter says the special counsel has obliged by offering a list of topics, including learning more about the President allegedly asking former FBI Director James Comey to drop the investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Mueller also wants to know about Trump’s reaction to Comey’s May 2017 testimony on Capitol Hill, which reportedly angered the President. Additionally, investigators want to learn more about the President’s outreach to intelligence leaders about the Russia investigation.
The topics are largely related to the firings of Flynn and Comey. The description of topics suggests any interview with Trump could focus substantially on obstruction of justice issues.
Mueller has now interviewed CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers. Two sources familiar with the matter say investigators have asked the intelligence officials about their conversations with the President about the Russia probe.
It was not clear how much Mueller would ask about questions of collusion with Russians regarding the 2016 presidential campaign.
The lawyer-to-lawyer discussions about Trump’s possible testimony are informal and Mueller is not obligated to accept the terms presented by the President’s team. If negotiations break down, Mueller could seek a subpoena to compel wide-ranging testimony from the President before a grand jury.
Attorneys for the President, as well as the spokesman for the office of the special counsel, declined to comment.
Trump told reporters Wednesday that he would do an interview with Mueller “under oath,” adding that he would be guided by the advice of his attorneys. He insisted, “There has been no collusion whatsoever. There is no obstruction whatsoever. And I am looking forward to it.”
Meantime, the back-and-forth about what format a presidential interview would take continues.
The Mueller push for an in-person interview could be an opening bid in what have been described as “ongoing discussions,” according to another source who says there is no arrangement at this point. Sources describe the talks as each side starting from their most desired outcome.
The President’s lawyers could push for some form of written responses, as President Ronald Reagan did on Iran Contra
, while holding out the possibility that Trump is willing to sit down with Mueller. At this point, sources say, a variety of options are on the table.
Trump continues to tell friends that he is willing to speak with Mueller’s team directly, according to one source familiar with the President’s thinking. “In his mind, he doesn’t have one ounce of culpability,” the source said.
Although Trump may want to testify, White House special counsel Ty Cobb made the case last week that attorneys don’t want to expose him to a potential a “perjury trap.”
“I would hope that a fair-minded Office of Special Counsel would approach it in a dutiful way consistent with precedent and it wouldn’t just be a perjury trap,” Cobb told CBS News last week.
According to one source, the President’s attorneys will likely present their arguments to Mueller’s team that there is no case against Trump.