President Donald Trump and his attorneys are planning to meet next week to decide whether to submit any of their written responses to special counsel Robert Mueller about what Trump might have known about Russian hacking during the 2016 campaign.
Rudy Giuliani, one of the lead Trump attorneys, told POLITICO in an interview Thursday that the president’s lawyers have prepped answers for Trump to review. But they have made no final commitment to sending those answers to Mueller.
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A meeting with Trump to make a final decision on the first round of questions is expected soon after the president returns Sunday night from his trip to Paris for the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, Guiliani said.
“We’re close,” Giuliani said. “I think the only thing that throws us off a little, which we explained to [Mueller], is that the president’s going to be away for about three, four days.”
“So, before we make a final decision — which I’m not sure I could tell you what that is, although I think we have an idea right now — but before we can make it, we really want the president to have a day home where he can just think about it, make sure he’s comfortable with it and then we’ll tell [Mueller] what the decision is,” the president’s lawyer added.
According to Giuliani, Mueller earlier this fall sent a list of questions to Trump’s attorneys as part of their probe into a potential Russian conspiracy with his 2016 campaign to influence the election.
Giuliani declined to discuss the number of questions Mueller posed, or their specific content. He did confirm that the questions deal with Trump’s time before he was sworn in as president in January 2017. There was also no firm commitment from Trump’s side to answer any or all of the questions — but they did agree to respond shortly after the midterm elections.
“As you might imagine, some questions are, from our view, more relevant than others,” Giuliani said.
Trump’s lawyers and Mueller have also left unresolved whether the special counsel will insist on an interview with the president about his White House tenure, including questions that get at whether Trump obstructed justice when he fired FBI Director James Comey in May 2017.
The president may still agree to voluntarily submit to answering those questions, Giuliani said, or he may force Mueller into making a decision about whether to subpoena the sitting president and force a historic legal fight.
Those talks, which Giuliani said are ongoing, also entail whether Trump would meet with Mueller in person or answer the special counsel’s queries in writing.
“We’re still in the middle of very sensitive negotiations, and they’ve been going very well, so I don’t want to get them all pissed off,” Giuliani said.
Mueller is under no deadline to finish his work, though the special counsel’s recent moves shedding a couple of prosecutors and agreeing to begin the sentencing process for several cooperating witnesses suggest he may be winding down.
Based on the questions Mueller delivered to the president’s lawyers, Giuliani said he would be surprised if the special counsel wasn’t already writing at least a final report dealing with topics related to the Trump campaign and the Russian hackers.
“The questions they gave us, if they don’t know the answer to 90 percent of them now, I’d be shocked,” Giuliani said. “I guess the only thing I can do is, if they get his answers — if that’s what happens — is they’re going to check it against what they thought his answers were going to be, and I think it’s going to come out almost 100 percent.”
Trump’s lawyers have been working for months on their own report about the 2016 election as a counterweight to Mueller’s findings, but Giuliani said Thursday that there’s also been no decision on whether they’ll make their work public.
That depends on whether Mueller first shares a copy of his report with the president’s lawyers and also whether the special counsel’s Justice Department supervisor — now acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker — decides to release the findings.
“If we read it and in the fairly remote possibility we really like it, then why write anything? Why put out anything?” Giuliani said.