Following the leak of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's questions for President Donald Trump regarding the Russia investigation, and conflicting comments by Trump and his new attorney, Rudy Giuliani, Mueller has reportedly rejected a request by Trump's legal team to answer the questions in writing rather than in person.
While Trump has repeatedly said he is willing to answer Mueller's questions in person, the president's legal team requested the written format because, as CBS News pointed out, "it helps protect Mr. Trump from the possibility of lying or misleading investigators, which is a criminal offense."
The Wall Street Journal reported Monday evening that Trump's lawyers hope to decide by May 17 whether to agree to a sit-down interview between Trump and Mueller—who already has said he will subpoena the president if the two sides cannot reach an agreement.
Giuliani told CBS correspondent Paula Reid that Trump would fight a subpoena—which would likely lead to a Supreme Court standoff—but since Mueller denied their request for written responses, formal negotiations to arrange a possible interview could occur in the coming weeks.
Rudy Giuliani says the White House has a list of demands for the special counsel before the president will agree to an interview. Giuliani says the president wants to testify in the Russia investigation, but Giuliani is cautioning him against it https://t.co/g01abIOrUI pic.twitter.com/XV2zJhoK5r— CBS News (@CBSNews) May 8, 2018
Giuliani added that he wants any potential meeting to take place after a highly anticipated summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, as "he believes that it would take several days to prepare the president for this kind of interview and he would not want to take [Trump] away from preparing for talks with North Korea."
Citing a source familiar with the matter, the Journal noted that "in an informal, four-hour practice session, Mr. Trump's lawyers were only able to walk him through two questions, given the frequent interruptions on national-security matters along with Mr. Trump's loquaciousness."
Trump's legal team, according to Giuliani, also has a list of demands: They want some topics to be "off-limits," to set a time limit for the interview, and "to know whether the interview would become public, and whether they would have the chance to issue a rebuttal to anything alleged by the special counsel."
Regarding a potential interview with Mueller, Trump "is in a bind of his own making," ethics and legal experts Norm Eisen, Noah Bookbinder, and Barry Berke wrote for Politico last week.
"By volunteering straightforward answers about his conduct, he risks strengthening the case that he obstructed justice and implicating himself in the campaign's possible conspiracy with Russia," they explained. "If Trump lies to investigators, he risks prosecution for knowingly making a false statement to federal agents—the same offense to which his former associates Michael Flynn, George Papadopolous, and Rick Gates have already pleaded guilty."
The news of upcoming negotiations to arrange an interview comes as Trump is experiencing significant turnover with his legal team. Giuliani recently came aboard, while John Dowd has resigned and Ty Cobb, who is spearheading Trump's defense from within the White House, plans to leave by the end of May.