President Donald Trump’s legal team is crafting a “counter-report” that will seek to delegitimize Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election meddling and present countervailing arguments.
Trump’s personal attorney, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, told The Daily Beast in an interview on Thursday that part of his report would examine whether the “initiation of the investigation was… legitimate or not.”
According to Giuliani, the bulk of the report will be divided into two sections. One section will seek to question the legitimacy of the Mueller probe generally by alleging “possible conflicts” of interest by federal law enforcement authorities. The other section will respond to more substantive allegations of Trump campaign collusion with Russian government agents to sway the 2016 election, and obstruction of justice allegations stemming from, among other things, the president’s firing of former FBI director James Comey.
Though this latter section will focus on the meat of Mueller’s investigation, Giuliani acknowledged that he doesn’t actually know what Mueller’s findings will look like, making the act of putting a counter-report together a bit more challenging.
“Since we have to guess what it is, [our report so far] is quite voluminous,” Giuliani said, claiming that he would spend much of this weekend “paring it down” and that he was editing the document created by the “whole team.”
“The first half of it is 58 pages, and second half isn't done yet… It needs an executive summary if it goes over a hundred,” he added. Giuliani also indicated that most of what’s being put together by him and his Trump-defending colleagues currently can already be found on Google.
Giuliani said that Trump’s legal team had not conducted any original interviews or investigation for their current draft.
“I don’t think there's anything in it that isn't publicly available in some form or another,” he continued. “There is no [secret] grand jury material here… It'll be our report, put out on... personal stationery, and it would be in response to their report… We may have to use it in court, or [send to] Congress.”
Giuliani also mentioned that Trump’s legal team is considering devoting a section of the report to revelations surrounding former Trump attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who pleaded guilty last week to a number of federal crimes, including campaign finance violations in which he directly implicated the president.
Glenn Kirschner, a retired federal prosecutor in Washington, D.C., said it was highly unusual for a rebuttal report to be authored by lawyers for potential subjects of an investigation, and virtually unheard of for it to be put together prior to the investigation’s findings being made public.
“This sounds to me like pure PR nonsense,” Kirschner said. “They are making an announcement that they will issue a rebuttal to a report that we don’t know when it is coming out or what it will contain.”
Kirschner said he believed the entire exercise was being done for the purposes of trying to “poison the well” for Mueller, as there was virtually zero likelihood that Giuliani and others would admit to any wrongdoing on the part of Trump.
“I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that they will find no obstruction or collusion,” Kirschner said.
The Trump team’s counter-report has been in the works since late July. Giuliani briefly mentioned the “report” in a tweet earlier this month, but little information about the actual document has been reported since.
Among those working on it are Giuliani and fellow Trump attorney Jay Sekulow along with their colleague on Trump’s legal team, Marty Raskin. Sekulow would only tell The Daily Beast that the president’s legal team is “preparing a comprehensive report that will include issues related to the commencement of this investigation through the legal issues of it.” A number of attorneys who work with Sekulow at his nonprofit legal group, the American Center for Law and Justice, are assisting with the report, though they are not doing so in their capacity as ACLJ employees, and the organization is not involved in its formation.
Sekulow declined to go into detail about the report’s contents, or conversations he’s had with the president about it.
Giuliani, who said the report was “probably” his idea, was more forthcoming, telling The Daily Beast that the president is aware of the report and Trump “knows it is part of our [legal] strategy and he’s happy with it.”
Giuliani said he aims for the preliminary draft of the “counter-report” to be “in pretty good shape by next week.” A source familiar with the process said those involved expect the counter-report to be ready to go in the next two to three weeks. The same source said that the initial deadline for the Trump team’s draft was Sept. 1, the date that Giuliani previously said that he expected Mueller’s investigation to wrap up. That appears unlikely to happen, so Trump’s legal team now hopes to have its counter-report ready to go once Mueller does submit his findings.
Giuliani suggested that his report could be released sooner if he gets a sense that Team Mueller “leaks theirs” or part of their findings. He also acknowledged that the entire process could be derailed by developments in the Mueller investigation.
“It may all be for naught,” Giuliani said, “because they may subpoena [the president], and then we'd have to turn our attention to fighting the subpoena.”
The report’s apparent focus on the roots of the Mueller investigation tracks with tactics taken by Trump’s chief defenders in Congress—notably House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) and House Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.). It also aligns with lines of attack taken by Trump’s favorite cable news personalities and informal advisers, such as Fox’s Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs.
Trump himself routinely tweets about the “angry Democrats” on Mueller’s investigative team. Efforts to paint the Mueller investigation as the fruit of a poisoned tree have been fueled by revelations that senior FBI officials such as Peter Strzok, who was recently fired, harbored intense private antipathy towards Trump.
An examination of the roots of the investigation could also touch on the process by which the FBI obtained a foreign intelligence surveillance warrant against one-time Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. Some of the evidence presented to obtain that warrant was produced by former British spy Christopher Steele on behalf of the firm Fusion GPS, a subcontractor for both conservative entities and, subsequently, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
—With additional reporting by Sam Stein