Special counsel Robert Mueller has reportedly dropped his insistence that President Trump appear in person to answer questions related to potential coordination his 2016 election campaign and Russia, agreeing instead to accept written responses.
The New York Times first reported on a letter sent Friday to the White House by Mueller making the offer. It comes after months of wrangling over whether Trump would or would not sit for an interview with the special counsel.
“On another significant aspect of the investigation — whether the president tried to obstruct the inquiry itself — Mr. Mueller and his investigators understood that issues of executive privilege could complicate their pursuit of a presidential interview and did not ask for written responses on that matter, according to the letter, which was sent on Friday,” the Times reported.
NPR has not independently confirmed the details reported by the Times and various other news outlets.
Although the Times reports that Mueller “did not say that he was giving up on an interview altogether.” The Associated Press, reporting separately citing a person familiar with the letter, said Mueller’s office “indicated it would later assess what additional information it needs from the president, leaving open the possibility that Mueller’s team might still seek answers on obstruction-related questions in an in-person interview.”
Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow, the president’s personal attorneys, declined comment, as did a representative for the special counsel’s office, according to The Washington Post.
In appearances on television news programs, Giuliani has frequently discussed Mueller’s pursuit of an interview with the president, seeming to wax and wane about the likelihood and desirability of such an interview.
As the Post notes, “Mueller’s decision to accept at least some written responses represents a concession to Trump’s legal team, which since December has resisted the special counsel’s efforts to interview the president. In March, Mueller raised the prospect of subpoenaing Trump if he refused to be questioned voluntarily.”
The AP writes, “The move by Mueller comes after he has issued two lengthy indictments detailing Russian efforts to interfere in the presidential campaign. Mueller has also scrutinized a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer he believed to have derogatory information on Democrat Hillary Clinton. Trump Jr. took the meeting, emails show, after it was described as part of a Russian government effort to help his father’s campaign. Trump has said he knew nothing about the meeting before it happened.”