Mueller offers to reduce obstruction questions but still wants to interview Trump in person
Special counsel Robert Mueller has offered to reduce the number of obstruction-related questions President Donald Trump would be asked by investigators, sources familiar with the negotiations tell CNN. However, Mueller wants obstruction to be addressed in person, not just in written answers.
The President’s lawyers had previously offered the special counsel written answers to obstruction questions and limiting the interview to matters before his presidential inauguration, which are largely confined to collusion.
Trump’s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, told reporters Wednesday that the President’s legal team has received a response from Mueller’s team regarding their counter-proposal for a potential interview with the President.
“We’re in the process of responding to their proposal,” Giuliani said after an event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, indicating that Mueller’s team had responded Tuesday.
He added that Trump has “always been interested in testifying. It’s us, meaning the team of lawyers, including me, that have the most reservations about that.”
Giuliani also sent a message to Mueller: It’s time for the special counsel to “put up or shut up.”
“They should render their report. Put up — I mean I guess if we were playing poker (you would say) ‘Put up or shut up.’ What do you got?” Giuliani said. “We have every reason to believe they don’t have anything of the President doing anything wrong. I don’t think they have any evidence he did anything wrong.”
Mueller’s response, according to a source familiar with the matter, suggested adding a few more questions in writing and others as part of a potential sit-down interview.
The source relayed that though Mueller had responded, the response was an incremental development. The two sides are still negotiating, but they’re only taking “baby steps,” the source said.
The Trump legal team suggested several weeks ago limiting some topics to written questions and doing an interview more on collusion, as CNN has previously reported.
The special counsel appears to be open to some version of this, though the source did not explain to what extent special counsel is agreeable.
The ball is in the Trump team’s court, two additional sources told CNN. Those sources would not say how long the Trump team’s lawyers would take to respond.
Giuliani told CNN’s “New Day” on Monday that Mueller’s team had been unresponsive to their recommendations for an interview between Mueller and the President for 10 days, adding that he believed the Mueller team is “in bad faith about an interview at this point.”
Giuliani also said Monday that “the odds are against” a Trump interview with Mueller, but that he “wouldn’t be shocked” if the President went through with it because he “wants to do it so badly.”
The Trump legal team is open to Mueller interviewing Trump with questions related to “an area of collusion, not obstruction,” Giuliani said on Monday. He added that the team may be receptive to questions of obstruction “if they could show us one or two there, we can consider it. One or two questions that they really need, we’d consider it.”