Thursday, August 2, 2018

Mueller offers Trump team new proposal for interview

WASHINGTON (AP) — In negotiations over a possible interview by prosecutors, special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has offered the White House format changes, perhaps willing to limit some questions asked of President Donald Trump or accept some answers in writing, according to a person briefed on the proposal.

Talks between Trump’s lawyers and the special counsel investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election have restarted in recent days, and it is not clear a deal will be struck, according to the person, who spoke Thursday on the condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations. Trump has publicly expressed a desire to be interviewed, but his lawyers have repeatedly objected to the investigators’ proposals.

Trump attorneys say both sides have exchanged proposals for conditions for such a Trump interview.

The negotiations come amid a backdrop of Trump’s escalating attacks on the probe, including his blunt declaration that his attorney general should terminate “right now” the federal probe into the campaign that took him to the White House, a newly fervent attack on the special counsel investigation that could imperil his presidency. Trump also assailed the trial, just underway, of his former campaign chairman by the special counsel’s team

The White House says that President Donald Trump’s criticisms of the special counsel’s Russia probe is not obstruction. (Aug. 1)

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders scrambled to explain that Trump’s tweet Wednesday was “not an order” and the president was not directing his attorney general to do anything.

“It’s the president’s opinion,” she said.

But Trump’s early morning tweetstorm again raised the specter that he could try to more directly bring special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia-Trump election-collusion probe to a premature end. And it revived the idea that the president’s tweets themselves might be used as evidence that he is attempting to obstruct justice.

Trump has raged privately in recent days that both the forces of government and the media are trying to undermine him. That includes trumped-up charges against his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and distorting the outcome of the Helsinki summit to make it appear he was beholden to Russia, according to two Republicans close to the White House not authorized to speak about private conversations.

Trump was closely monitoring news coverage of the Manafort proceedings, which provoked the spate of incendiary tweets, according to the two Republicans and two White House officials.

“The president’s not obstructing, he’s fighting back,” said Sanders, dismissing the idea Trump’s tweets could be tantamount to obstruction of justice.

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