Donald Trump has already answered a number of Robert Mueller’s questions. But the president may not be done supplying information to the Special Counsel’s Office, The Daily Beast has learned.
Rudy Giuliani, a personal attorney for Trump, confirmed to The Daily Beast that the Trump and Mueller camps are continuing to negotiate over whether the special counsel will further question the president—and the scope of those queries should they take place.
Regarding talks over Mueller’s access to President Trump, Giuliani said that negotiations are “still open.”
Asked by The Daily Beast if it is his understanding that Mueller is still looking to interview Trump over the phone or in person, Giuliani reiterated that “it hasn’t been formally closed yet, and that the loop hasn’t been closed.”
He added that no specific dates have been set yet to resume talks. The former New York City mayor and current Trump attorney, however, said on Fox News Sunday earlier this month that his client would sit for an in-person Mueller interview “over my dead body.” Giuliani added, cheekily, “But, you know, I could be dead.”
A spokesperson for Mueller’s office declined to comment.
CNN reported earlier this month that Mueller still wants to question the president. A source close to the investigation told The Daily Beast that Trump’s lawyers uniformly advise the president that under no circumstances should he agree to a sit-down. Trump has for months told people close to him that he hasn’t made a final decision on this yet, though none of the four sources close to Trump who spoke to The Daily Beast for this story expect Trump to willingly submit himself for an interview at this point.
Despite all his past bluster about a supposed desire to sit for an in-person interview with Mueller, President Trump said last month that his written answers to the special counsel’s office would probably be “the end.”
“[Negotiations] haven’t formally ended yet,” Giuliani said on Wednesday. “They haven’t ended because it’s not just my opinion that matters. There are other lawyers involved, and the president of the United States, of course…My opinion is, I don’t trust them. I look at how they treated Manafort, Flynn, and Corsi.”
Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chief, admitted in September that he had committed a number of crimes, including bank fraud, illegal foreign lobbying, and money laundering. Trump’s first national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty in 2017 to lying to the FBI; he has since cooperated with the Mueller probe, and will be sentenced next year. And Jerome Corsi, a conservative writer and leading propagator of the birther conspiracy theory, has drawn scrutiny from Mueller’s team but has not been charged with any crime. Corsi and his lawyers have shared information with Trump’s attorneys.
The question of whether Trump will speak in person with lawyers on Mueller’s team has been central ever since Mueller started his probe on May 17, 2017. And while the White House provided reams of documents to Mueller’s team and made a host of senior staff available for interviews, Trump’s lawyers have been loath to let him talk with the special counsel.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein initiated the probe shortly after Trump fired then-FBI Director James Comey (a move he later said was informed by the FBI’s scrutiny of Russian meddling in the 2016 race). He directed Mueller to investigate Kremlin efforts to impact that contest as well as any connection between Trump associates and Russian actors. Rosenstein oversaw the probe while Jeff Sessions—a top Trump campaign adviser—was attorney general.
Last month, Trump forced out Sessions and replaced him with Matt Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney who made a host of cable news appearances criticizing the Russia probe before joining the Trump administration. Whitaker has decided not to recuse himself from overseeing the probe, which means he is now Mueller’s boss.
The probe now appears to be entering a later phase; a number of prosecutors have left Mueller’s team to return to their old jobs, and the special counsel is working on a report detailing the probe’s findings. Mueller will give that report to the attorney general—likely to be Whitaker or Bill Barr, who Trump has picked for the job.
Barr has made no secret of his view of the Mueller probe. Before Trump named him as his pick for attorney general, he wrote a memo for the Justice Department arguing that the special counsel was pushing for an “unprecedented expansion” of laws barring obstruction of justice, which could have “grave consequences” for the White House.