An unnamed senior White House official floated a surprising idea to Politico on Thursday: President Donald Trump’s lawyers “are open” to having Trump sit down with special counsel Robert Mueller.
According to Politico, the source suggested such an offer would be part “of a wider posture of cooperation with the special counsel’s Russia probe.”
Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election has expanded into a vast criminal probe of multiple aspects of Trump’s career in politics in business. Trump said in June that he was “100 percent” willing to testify under oath about his firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
According to Politico’s source, if Mueller’s team doesn’t request a meeting with Trump by Thanksgiving, Trump’s lawyers could apply pressure to the special counsel by volunteering Trump’s time for an interview.
The President has said he will not fire Mueller, though he has reportedly considered that option privately.
Politico’s source wasn’t concerned about what could devolve into a contentious exchange between Trump and Mueller, whose investigation has severely disrupted Trump’s administration and divided his attention.
“Whatever happens with regard to whether or not, or how, the special counsel might want to interview the President, there’s no reason to expect that would be combative,” the source said.
Trump’s personal lawyer, John Dowd, wrote to Politico in an email: “Totally false!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” And Politico said he “disputed” their source’s “characterization of the Trump legal team’s position on an interview with Mueller.”
One former Watergate prosecutor, Richard Ben-Veniste, told Politico that Trump faced severe risks in an interview with Mueller, given his habit of lying.
“Given his proclivity toward confabulation, I have no doubt his lawyers would counsel strongly against him testifying,” Ben-Veniste said.