With Trump's interview with Mueller looming, the President lawyers are reportedly seeking to negotiate a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller that uses an interview with Trump as negotiating leverage, and accelerate a conclusion to the Russia investigation.
According to the WSJ, the president’s legal team plans on telling Mueller that Trump would agree to a sit-down interview based on multiple considerations, including that the special counsel commit to a date for concluding at least the Trump-related portion of the investigation. One idea is to suggest a deadline of 60 days from the date of the interview.
Another consideration for Trump's lawyers is "reaching an agreement with Mueller on the scope of his questioning of the president, which they expect to focus largely on his decision to fire former national security adviser Mike Flynn and former FBI director James Comey." This also confirms that Trump's legal team is convinced that Mueller is now going after obstruction of justice and interference, and not Russian collusion as the primary angle of attack.
Trump is pressing his lawyers to bring about an end to the probe.
Mr. Trump has been eager to see the investigation wrap up as quickly as possible, describing it as a distraction that is hurting the country. His lawyers have repeatedly laid out public timelines by which they expected the investigation to end. Those deadlines have come and gone.
Tweeting in January, Mr. Trump said of the investigation: “On and on it goes. Russia & the world is laughing at the stupidity they are witnessing.”
Of course, it is feasible that Mueller does accelerate the probe's conclusion, only with a determination that is the opposite of what Trump would want to hear.
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The WSJ source notes that conversations with Mueller over a possible Trump interview are in the earliest stages. The lead outside attorney for Trump, John Dowd, said in an email Friday: “We never discuss our communications with OSC (Office of Special Counsel).”
While it was unclear if Mueller would agree to Trump's terms, legal experts told the WSJ they were skeptical that the special counsel would be open to the Trump legal team’s requests.
“You can’t put a timeline on these things,” said Peter Zeidenberg, a former federal prosecutor and an expert in government investigations. “Someone could walk in the door on the day before their proposed deadline and say, ‘I’ve got some information that’s going to blow your minds.’ … Mueller’s going to say, ‘Oh, too bad, the deadline’s tomorrow?’ ”
Trump's sit down with Mueller comes as the special counsel has already interviewed dozens of top White House officials and campaign aides, including the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.
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As previously reported, Trump's lawyers hold differing opinions on whether the president should testify and under what conditions.
One member of the Trump legal team said last month that Mr. Trump’s testimony could set a bad precedent for future presidents, eroding their powers.
If Mr. Trump were to face detailed questions involving dates and times, his legal team may be reluctant to have him participate. As an example, general questions about what the president was thinking when he ordered the firing of Mr. Comey might be acceptable, as opposed to what action he took on a specific date and time.
The WSJ concludes that as a Plan B, Trump's legal team has studied federal court rulings that could be the basis for delaying or limiting the scope of an interview, or perhaps avoiding one altogether, although with Mueller successfully "turning" several potential witnesses, it is doubtful that he would succumb to any influence from the White House, absent Trump's engaging in a controversial termination.
What is more interesting is that whereas until recently the market would at least demonstrate a token move when presented with such a notable escalation in the Trump-Mueller narrative, today the S&P has not even flinched, prompting some to wonder if anyone even remotely cares about the ongoing Mueller probe at this point.