President Donald Trump's legal team rebuffed special counsel Robert Mueller's attempt to interview the commander-in-chief about the ongoing Trump-Russia scandal.
Although Trump submitted answers to Mueller in writing last November, the special counsel is apparently unsatisfied with those answers and wants to have an in-person meeting with the president in order to get more information, according to CNN. Sources close to the situation say that the two sides are at an impasse and neither one has been able to make the other budge over the past five weeks, with the Trump administration emphasizing to Mueller's team that they believe any follow up questions to the president's original written responses are unnecessary.
Past comments by Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City, foreshadowed the fact that Trump would be difficult about the possibility of meeting with Mueller. When speaking to Fox News at the time, Giuliani said of the idea of the president speaking to Mueller that it would only happen "over my dead body. But you know, I could be dead."
At the same time, Giuliani had also admitted in an interview with The Atlantic that "answering those questions was a nightmare. It took him about three weeks to do what would normally take two days." Although Giuliani had initially promised that the administration would produce a counter-report to rebut any assertions made by Mueller, subsequent stories revealed that such a counter-report had not been produced. Earlier descriptions had pegged it as being fifty-eight pages or longer in length.
Instead Giuliani's new approach is to claim that the report by Mueller might be suppressed by the administration on the grounds of executive privilege.
"We will look at it and see if the president thinks there is a valid claim and if there is, do we want to make it. We reserve the right. We don’t know if we have to, but we haven’t waived it," Giuliani said in an interview with Bloomberg. While Mueller is only legally required to turn over the report to the head of the Justice Department — who will be either acting attorney general Matt Whitaker or future Attorney General William Barr, depending on the timing — House Democrats have already promised to seek out any information that the Justice Department regarding the Mueller report, including the report itself.
While any attempt by Whitaker to suppress the Mueller report would likely be met with a legal challenge, Barr has at least partially offered hope by promising that he would not meddle with or attempt to terminate Mueller's probe.
"I believe it is in the best interest of everyone — the president, Congress and, most importantly, the American people — that this matter be resolved by allowing the special counsel to complete his work," Barr's prepared testimony said. "The country needs a credible resolution of these issues."
He added, "If confirmed, I will not permit partisan politics, personal interests, or any other improper consideration to interfere with this or any other investigation. I will follow the special counsel regulations scrupulously and, in good faith and on my watch, Bob will be allowed to complete his work."