President Donald Trump has given written answers to questions from special counsel Robert Mueller, according to his lawyers. And now, his top outside lawyer is calling for the Mueller probe to close down.
“The President today answered written questions submitted by The Special Counsel’s Office,” said his attorney Jay Sekulow in a statement. “The questions dealt with issues regarding the Russia-related topics of the inquiry. The President responded in writing.”
Another of the president’s attorneys, Rudy Giuliani, told The Daily Beast in a phone interview on Tuesday night: “We answered every question that they asked relating to the Russian portion of the investigation and the time period before he was elected president. We made clear in advance we weren’t going to answer any questions beyond that, like obstruction or the period of time after he became president.”
Giuliani stressed that “we don’t believe it would be a legitimate investigation of obstruction… [due to] Article II… and also, [providing those answers] would violate executive privilege, and only the White House counsel can make that decision, not us.”
The Trump attorney said he couldn’t get into, exactly, how many answers were provided or how many pages they stretched, but claimed, “It was a good number of questions, not just a few—complex questions, meaning they had many parts to them. It was like a law school question [with] A-B-C-D-E... They weren’t impossibly long, but they weren’t brief either.”
Giuliani said the answers were “hand-delivered” by an assistant to the special counsel’s office—“a written group of responses signed by the president, with a cover letter signed by the attorneys,” he added—because “they wanted a signed copy.” When asked about how long it took for Trump and his legal team to get this done, he responded, “We did it over the course of three weeks, with short periods that the president had available... The president wrote out a lot of it [on pen and paper]. Then we reviewed it. And then we typed it up.”
The question of how—and if—Trump would field questions from Mueller’s team has dogged the White House legal team since the probe’s inception last year. In January of this year, Trump told reporters he “absolutely” would talk to Mueller’s team, and that he “would love to do it” if his lawyers gave the go-ahead. At the time, his then-lawyer John Dowd told The Daily Beast that no such decision had been made. Finally making the decision took about a year.
Trump’s lawyers and Mueller’s investigators negotiated the terms of a potential interview for months, generating speculation that Mueller could consider subpoenaing the president if he stiff-armed the special counsel. A presidential subpoena would likely have triggered a historic legal battle that would have found its way to the Supreme Court. But that doesn’t appear to be happening.
Mueller reportedly wanted to question the president about two broad areas: Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential obstruction of justice on the president’s part. Trump’s lawyers indicated Tuesday that he answered questions about the former issue but not the latter.
The answers came on the same day that the New York Times reported Trump told then White House Counsel Don McGahn — who the paper says "rebuffed" the president — he wanted the Justice Department to prosecute Hillary Clinton and James Comey. CNN, citing "a source familiar with the matter," then reported that Trump had also pressed Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Matt Whitaker, then chief of staff to Jeff Sessions and now the acting attorney general, about Justice's progress in probing Clinton.
The prospect that Trump would have an in-person interview with Mueller, never likely, vaporized when Washington attorney Emmet Flood joined the White House to help handle the Mueller inquiry after McGahn departed.