Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has told President Trump’s legal team that his office is likely to seek an interview with the president, triggering a discussion among his attorneys about how to avoid a sit-down encounter or set limits on such a session, according to two people familiar with the talks.
Mueller raised the issue of interviewing Trump during a late-December meeting with the president’s lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow. Mueller deputy James Quarles, who oversees the White House portion of the special counsel investigation, also attended.
The special counsel’s team could interview Trump soon on some limited portion of questions — possibly within the next several weeks, according to a person close to the president, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal conversations.
“This is moving faster than anyone really realizes,” the person said. Trump is comfortable participating in an interview and believes it would put to rest questions about whether his campaign coordinated with #Russia in the 2016 election, the person added.
However, the president’s attorneys are reluctant to let him sit for open-ended, face-to-face questioning without clear parameters, according to two people familiar with the discussions. Since the December meeting, they have discussed whether the president could provide written answers to some of the questions from Mueller’s investigators, as President Ronald Reagan did during the #Iran-contra investigation. They have also discussed the obligation of Mueller’s team to demonstrate that it could not obtain the information it seeks without interviewing the president.
The legal team’s internal discussions about how to respond to a request for an interview were first reported Monday morning by NBC News.
Dowd and Sekulow declined to comment.
In a statement, Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer overseeing the administration’s response to the Mueller investigation, said that “the White House does not comment on communications with the OSC out of respect for the OSC and its process,” referring to the special counsel’s office.