The president’s personal legal team is still negotiating a possible interview between President Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller, according to White House lawyer Ty Cobb.
“The Cohen searches, while they have taken time away from discussions with regard to an interview, certainly have not brought those discussions to a halt,” Cobb told The Daily Beast. “They continue.”
There have been reports, including at The Washington Post on April 17, that the negotiations for a potential interview between Trump and Mueller’s team have sputtered to halt in recent weeks after the FBI searches of longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s office and hotel room.
The raids certainly appear to have rattled the president.
“Attorney-client privilege is now a thing of the past,” he tweeted after news of the raid broke.
According to Cobb, however, none of this has stopped negotiations about a potential interview.
“The Cohen searches have not yet changed our strategy or level of cooperation with the special counsel,” he said, referring to recent raids on the home and workplace of Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime personal attorney.
Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal lawyer, told The Daily Beast, “We continue our ongoing cooperation with the Office of the Special Counsel.”
Any sit-down would bring the risk of perjury for the president if he knowingly misstated the facts to Mueller’s investigators. One of Bill Clinton’s impeachment counts came because Ken Starr concluded he lied to a grand jury. Trump’s relationship with facts is a dicey one; of all his statements that The Washington Post fact-checked during the campaign season, more than 60 percent got the maximum number of Pinocchios.
These risks are among the reasons that John Dowd, formerly a member of the president’s personal legal team, staunchly opposed having the president sit down with Mueller. Despite the risk, however, there is historical precedent for special counsels interviewing presidents. John Danforth told The Daily Beast last May that he interviewed then-President Bill Clinton by phone when he was special counsel investigating the Waco disaster.
NBC reported on April 12 that the president’s legal team—prior to the raid—had entered the final stages of negotiations, determining “final sticking points, including the timing, scope and length, according to people familiar with the discussions.”
The president’s legal team got a new addition on Thursday: Rudy Giuliani, the longtime Trump ally and former mayor of New York. The Daily Beast was the first to report that Giuliani was in talks to join the president’s legal team. Giuliani told CNN he hopes to help expedite the conclusion of the Mueller probe within “a couple of weeks.” Most outside observers believe the probe will last much longer than that.
Cobb also told The Daily Beast that he is untroubled by news that Steve Bannon, the controversial former White House adviser, has urged White House officials to stop cooperating with the special counsel. Cobb, long a vocal proponent of cooperation, said that Bannon’s criticism of his strategy doesn’t bother him.
“It has zero effect on me,” he said. “I’m a do-the-right-thing guy.
“I don’t worry about Bannon,” he continued. “I don’t worry about any outside criticism. This is a live-fire game and you’ve got to be able to take incoming and keep making progress on behalf of the interests of the White House.”
Cobb also said that the president’s legal strategy does not involve doling out pardons to people trying to decide whether or not to cooperate with Mueller.
“Pardons are not part of any discussions and certainly not part of any strategy,” he said.