Giuliani: Trump can't end probe into all crimes
President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, said there would be limits to a president’s ability to influence a law enforcement investigation into himself.
The New York Times published two letters sent from Trump’s legal team to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, arguing that as the chief U.S. law enforcement officer, the president couldn’t obstruct the investigation into Russian interference because he has the power to terminate the probe or pardon those caught up in it. The letters were sent before Giuliani joined Trump’s legal team.
Does that mean a president could end an investigation into allegations that he had committed bribery, or even murder? “I would not go that far,” Giuliani said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week.”
Nonetheless, the former New York City mayor argued that the arguments in the letters, which were written in January, were “very, very persuasive” and reflected “what most constitutional lawyers who tend to try to protect the presidency would say.” Trump’s intent, he said, seems to be key to the question of prosecution.
“For every one of these things he did, we can write out five reasons why he did it,” Giuliani said. “If four of them are completely innocent and one of them is your assumption that it’s a guilty motive, which the president would deny, you can’t possibly prosecute him or recommend impeachment.”
Giuliani also said it’s “an open question” whether the president can pardon himself. He said Trump is not planning to do so but that he likely could.
“I think the political ramifications of that would be tough,” Giuliani said. “Pardoning other people is one thing; pardoning yourself is another.”
Giuliani denied that a pardon this week of conservative commentator Dinesh D’Souza, and considerations of doing the same for Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich, was a signal of his willingness to do so for those caught up in the Russia investigation.
Giuliani has said his legal strategy is to ward off allegations of wrongdoing that could lead to impeachment proceedings. A key element of that is preventing Trump from providing testimony to Mueller that could be used against him.
He also addressed a suggestion in the letters that emerged Saturday that Mueller’s team may not be able to force the president to answer questions given the volume of information already in its possession from other witnesses.
If the president’s legal team thought Mueller wanted to question Trump "for purposes of harassment," Giuliani said, they would go before a judge and say, “You’ve got everything you need. What do you need us for?”
He said he and Trump’s other lawyers are “leaning” against having the president answer Mueller’s questions, but that it was still possible if the special counsel met a “high bar.”
During the past week, Giuliani has said the president would be willing to sit for an interview with Mueller’s team but only if certain demands were met, such as being able to review documents on the use of a Federal Bureau of Investigation informant during the 2016 presidential campaign. Giuliani has sought to keep Mueller from issuing a subpoena for his client to appear before a grand jury, which if refused by the president could spark a court battle and delay a conclusion to the investigation.
Sunday’s comments by Giuliani that Mueller seems to have a “heavy reliance” on notes from former FBI Director James Comey also offered a possible preview of how he and the president plan to use an upcoming Justice Department inspector general report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation to attack the validity of Mueller’s yearlong probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.
“They seem to have the heavy reliance on Comey,” Giuliani said. He said he thinks “that’s going to get knocked to heck” with the release of the watchdog’s report.
Giuliani reiterated that Mueller should complete his investigation by September to avoid influencing midterm congressional elections, a mistake Giuliani says Comey made in handling the Clinton probe.
To contact the reporters on this story: Ben Brody in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org, Tom Schoenberg in Washington at email@example.com.