Lawyers for President Donald Trump are “considering” the ways he could answer special counsel Robert Mueller’s questions under certain conditions, the Wall Street Journal reported Sunday, citing an unnamed person familiar with Trump’s legal team’s thinking.
One unnamed person “familiar with the matter” told the Journal that the lawyers’ considerations included whether Mueller’s questions would be limited in scope and whether they avoid testing Trump’s memory such that they would effectively constitute a potential perjury trap.
“Everything is on the table,” the source said. The Journal reported that options included Trump providing written answers to Mueller or giving him “limited verbal testimony,” in the paper’s words.
An unnamed member of the legal team appeared resistant to a potential interview, telling the Journal that Mueller “has all of the notes and memos of the thoughts and actions of this president on all subjects he requested in real time without reservation or qualification, including testimony from his most intimate staff and eight lawyers from the White House Counsel’s Office.”
“Any question for the president is answered in these materials and testimony,” that person said, adding: “It would be a travesty to waste his (Mr. Trump’s) time and to set a precedent which would cripple a future president.”
The paper noted that Trump’s legal team has studied a federeal appeals court’s 1997 ruling on presidents’ ability to refuse disclosure of some information about decision-making processes and other official decisions.
Unnamed people familiar with the matter told the Journal the President’s lawyers have prepared to launch a legal battle to protect him from testifying, should Mueller’s conditions not meet their demands. Those demands include avoiding “detailed questions involving dates and times,” in the Journal’s words.
The internal debate among Trump’s legal team over a potential Mueller interview has gone on for weeks.
The Washington Post reported in January that Mueller had told Trump’s attorneys the previous month that he would likely seek to interview the President.
Ty Cobb, a lawyer on Trump’s White House legal team, told CBS News later in January that the team was in “active discussions” with Mueller’s team about a potential interview between Trump and Mueller.
“The President is very eager to sit down and explain […] whatever responses are required in connection with wrapping up this investigation,” he said.
Still, the New York Times reported in February that some of Trump’s lawyers had urged the President to decline, or attempt to limit, an interview with Mueller’s team.
Trump himself said in January that he was “looking forward” to speaking with Mueller, adding, “subject to my lawyers and all of that, but I would love to do it.”