WASHINGTON (AP) — An attorney for President Donald Trump stressed Sunday that the president’s legal team would contest any effort to force the president to testify in front of a grand jury during the special counsel’s Russia probe but downplayed the idea that Trump could pardon himself.
Rudy Giuliani, in a series of television interviews, emphasized one of the main arguments in a newly unveiled letter sent by Trump’s lawyers to special counsel Robert Mueller back in January: that a president can’t be given a grand jury subpoena as part of the investigation into foreign meddling in the 2016 election.
But he distanced himself from one of their bolder arguments in the letter, which was first reported Saturday by The New York Times, that a president could not have committed obstruction of justice because he has authority to “if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon.”
“Pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment,” Giuliani told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”And he has no need to do it, he’s done nothing wrong.”
The former New York City mayor, who was not on the legal team when the letter was written, added that Trump “probably does” have the power to pardon himself, an assertion challenged by legal scholars, but says the president’s legal team hasn’t discussed that option, which many observers believe could plunge the nation into a constitutional crisis.
“I think the political ramifications would be tough,” Giuliani told ABC’s “This Week.” ”Pardoning other people is one thing, pardoning yourself is tough.”
The letter is dated Jan. 29 and addressed to Mueller from John Dowd, a Trump lawyer who has since resigned from the legal team. Mueller has requested an interview with the president to determine whether he had criminal intent to obstruct the investigation into his associates’ possible links to Russia’s election interference.
Giuliani said Sunday that a decision about an interview would not be made until after Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore, and he cast doubt that it would occur at all.
“I mean, we’re leaning toward not,” Giuliani told ABC. “But look, if they can convince us that it will be brief, it would be to the point, there were five or six points they have to clarify, and with that, we can get this — this long nightmare for the — for the American public over.”
Trump’s legal team has long pushed the special counsel to narrow the scope of its interview. Giuliani also suggested that Trump’s lawyers had been incorrect when they denied that the president was involved with the letter that offered an explanation for Donald Trump Jr.’s 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians who offered damaging information on Democrat Hillary Clinton.
“This is the reason you don’t let the president testify,” Giuliani told ABC. “Our recollection keeps changing, or we’re not even asked a question and somebody makes an assumption.”
A court battle is likely if Trump’s team argues that the president can’t be forced to answer questions or be charged with obstruction of justice. President Bill Clinton was charged with obstruction in 1998 by the House of Representatives as part of his impeachment trial. And one of the articles of impeachment prepared against President Richard Nixon in 1974 was for obstruction.
Giuliani suggested Sunday that, despite the president’s broad powers, a theoretical charge of obstruction may be possible in some cases. Topics of Mueller’s obstruction investigation include the firings of FBI director James Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, as well as Trump’s reaction to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal from the Russia investigation.