Offbeat Trump's lawyers seek to narrow scope of special counsel interview
Judge refuses to dismiss ex-Trump campaign aide Manafort's criminal case
A federal judge refused on Tuesday to dismiss criminal charges brought by Special Counsel Robert Mueller against President Donald Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort, after Manafort claimed that Mueller had exceeded his prosecutorial powers. In a sharp rebuke of those claims, Judge Amy Berman Jackson, of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, ruled that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had followed all the Justice Department's rules when he hired Mueller and Mueller's case against Manafort is not overly broad or improper.
Donald Trump's legal team is trying to narrow the scope of the President's potential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller to questions on Russia-related matters that occurred before Trump's election, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
Trump's lawyers, who are urging Mueller to wrap up his investigation, are looking for a way to get him to agree to limit -- or eliminate -- questions regarding Trump's conduct after he won the presidency, especially those related to whether he might have obstructed justice while in office.
Their goal is to move past a standoff that threatens to drag out Mueller's investigation, and appears to be part of a larger strategy to negotiate with the special counsel through the media. Ultimately, their success depends on Mueller's willingness to cut a deal -- and there is no indication so far that he'd be open to any such proposal.
Giuliani: Mueller's team told Trump's lawyers they can't indict a president
Special counsel Robert Mueller's team has informed President Donald Trump's attorneys that they have concluded that they cannot indict a sitting president, according to the President's lawyer. "All they get to do is write a report," Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani told CNN. "They can't indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us.
"We said we wanted the questions limited to Russian collusion," one of the sources with knowledge of the President's legal strategy tells CNN. Since that aspect of the investigation deals with the Trump campaign and transition team's interactions with Russians, it would exclude questions about Trump's actions once in office. And even within the pre-presidency category, Trump's lawyers want to narrow what questions the prosecutors can ask.
The focus on Trump's conduct prior to assuming the presidency also would exclude questions about the firing of then-FBI Director James Comey and possible obstruction of justice.
One possibility Trump's lawyers are discussing is a combination of in-person and written answers: a limited Trump interview on Russia pre-presidency matters plus written answers to questions regarding obstruction. Trump's lawyers are insisting on an audio recording of any interview with the President, so there is no question exactly what was said.
Mueller's office files unredacted memo outlining scope of Russia probe-filing
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office notified a federal court in Virginia on Thursday it had filed under seal an unredacted memorandum that is expected to shed light on the scope of his wide-ranging probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.WASHINGTON, May 17 (Reuters) - Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office notified a federal court in Virginia on Thursday it had filed under seal an unredacted memorandum that is expected to shed light on the scope of his wide-ranging probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
However, the sources caution that Mueller has suggested he is not inclined to agree to written answers to questions.
Mueller's office declined to comment for this story.
'Inching' toward a solution
The sources say nothing is resolved yet, but negotiations are ongoing. One source described the discussions as "inching forward."
Last month, Trump's attorneys were preparing to deliver their pre-presidency idea to the special counsel on the same day that the FBI raided the office of Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. The raid caught Trump's team off guard, and when his attorneys met with Mueller later that day, they held off with their proposal.
Trump's attorneys are seeking to avoid any in-person questions about obstruction. They believe that Trump could not have obstructed justice by firing Comey because the President has the authority to fire anyone he wants. And they point to the President's Article II constitutional powers to run the executive branch without interference.
Giuliani says Trump doesn't actually know about FBI informant in campaign
The former mayor added that the team of Special Counsel Robert Mueller had agreed to limit the scope of an interview.Giuliani, a recent addition to the legal team, held a wide-ranging interview with CNN's Chris Cuomo Friday morning, as the President used a tweet to cite a Fox News commenter saying that federal investigators were "out to frame" him.
Although offering to answer written questions about topics during the Trump presidency may seem to run counter to that viewpoint, it appears to be a negotiating tactic to try to reach a deal.
One source describes the offer of written questions as a way for both sides to "avert a fight" that could go all the way to the Supreme Court.
Still, if Mueller remains opposed to written questions and is determined to ask the President questions that deal with his time in office, that court fight may be unavoidable.
The election factor
Trump's team believes that Mueller hopes to wrap up the case before the midterm election. If there is no agreement, the investigation involving the President may have to extend beyond the election.
And one source says all agree "there should be no bombshells before an election."
Trump's legal team is also keeping an eye on another looming issue: a nearly completed Justice Department inspector general report is expected to harshly criticize Comey and other top officials at the FBI and the Justice Department over the handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. A report that paints Comey in a negative light, they believe, is helpful to their argument that the President acted appropriately to fire the former FBI director.
Mueller lawyers seek to prevent their ouster with dual filings
Lawyers from special counsel Robert Mueller's team have filed as special assistant U.S. attorneys in their case against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, a move that could make it harder for a federal judge to move the case to a different court. PoliPolitico reported Monday that several attorneys on Mueller's team signed off on court filings as both representatives of Mueller's office, and as special assistant United States attorneys.
The Trump team has been making the case that Trump should not be required to testify about alleged obstruction of justice since 2017.
In multiple letters sent to the special counsel, the team laid out its response to issues they thought the special counsel was examining in 2017 and 2018. The first letter focused on what Trump's team sees as Comey's lack of credibility as a potential witness. Sources did not provide 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.
Former Trump attorney John 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 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.
Trey Gowdy: FBI’s Use of Informant for Trump Campaign Was Appropriate .
The South Carolina Republican joins top Democrats in disputing President Trump’s misleading characterization of the informant’s activities.“I am even more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got, and that it has nothing to do with Donald Trump,” Gowdy said during an interview on Fox News.
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