lawyers are seeking to negotiate a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller that uses an interview with the president as leverage to spur a conclusion to the Russia investigation, according to a person familiar with the discussions.
president’s legal team is considering telling Mr. Mueller that Mr.
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,
the person said.
Another consideration for
the legal team is reaching an agreement with Mr. 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
and former FBI director
according to people familiar with the matter.
who was forced out of the White House after misleading Vice President
about his Russian contacts, pleaded guilty in December to lying
to investigators about his contacts. Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey as he was
investigating whether Trump associates colluded with Russia in
interfering in the 2016 presidential election. Mr. Mueller was appointed
to carry on that probe after Mr. Comey’s dismissal. Mr. Mueller is also
investigating whether Mr. Trump obstructed justice when he fired Mr.
The president denies any collusion with the Kremlin and
denies obstructing the Russia investigation, which he has called a
“witch hunt.” Moscow has said it didn’t meddle in the campaign.
president’s legal team is under pressure from Mr. Trump 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.”
A person familiar
with the Trump legal team’s process said that conversations with Mr.
Mueller over a possible Trump interview are in the earliest stages.
the lead outside attorney for Mr. Trump, said in an email Friday:
“We never discuss our communications with OSC (Office of Special
The special counsel’s office declined to comment.
Legal experts said they were skeptical that the special counsel would be open to the Trump legal team’s requests.
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?’ ”
special counsel has interviewed dozens of top White House officials and
campaign aides, including the president’s son-in-law and senior
and former chief of staff Reince Priebus.
Lawyers for Mr. Trump hold different views on whether he 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
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
Lawyers for Mr. Trump have studied federal court rulings that could be the basis for delaying or limiting the scope of an interview, or perhaps avoiding one altogether.