The president's lawyer Rudy Giuliani threatened to take special counsel Robert Mueller to court if he attempts to subpoena Donald Trump.
"If Mueller tries to subpoena us, we're going to court," Giuliani told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos on 'This Week,' in response to New York Times reports of a letter sent from the Trump team to Mueller in January arguing that the president cannot legally obstruct justice in his position as the country's "chief law enforcement officer."
"It remains our position that the President's actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself, and that he could if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired," the letter reads.
Trump tweeted 40 minutes before the New York Times story broke, asking if Mueller's team or the Department of Justice was responsible for leaking the letter.
"There was No Collusion with Russia (except by the Democrats)," the president tweeted Saturday afternoon. "When will this very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax ever end? So bad for our Country. Is the Special Counsel/Justice Department leaking my lawyers letters to the Fake News Media? Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?"
There was No Collusion with Russia (except by the Democrats). When will this very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax ever end? So bad for our Country. Is the Special Counsel/Justice Department leaking my lawyers letters to the Fake News Media? Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 2, 2018
Sunday morning, Giuliani confirmed that the letter was genuine, saying it contained "excellent legal arguments."
"I mean, this is basically, I think, what most constitutional lawyers who tend to try to protect the presidency would say," about the contention that a president by definition can not obstruct justice.
He also said Mueller had not yet responded, "He’s responded to other things. You know, look I -- if I were him, I wouldn’t respond to the letter either unless I made the decision to go or not to go. If I’m not going to go, why respond to it, I’ve got other things to do."
"Look," he later said, "For every one of these things [Trump] did, we can write out five reasons why he did it. 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."
Transcript, via ABC News:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning. And welcome to This Week.
We want to get right to that blockbuster report in The New York Times, publishing a January
letter from Trump's lawyers to Robert Mueller. The most detailed, authoritative and explicit account yet of the president's legal defense in the Russia investigation.
The memo makes a breathtaking claim of presidential power, arguing that the president could not have obstructed justice in the Russia investigation because the constitution grants him unfettered power over federal investigations.
A president, they write, can order the termination of an investigation by the Justice Department or the FBI at any time and for any reason.
The lawyers also argue that the president's cooperation to date means he does not have to speak with Mueller.
In light of these voluntary offerings, they write, your office clearly lacks the requisite need to personally interview the president. Having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world.
And the letter confirms for the first time that President Trump personally dictated a misleading statement for his son, Don Jr., about that infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russian officials, promising damaging information about Hillary Clinton.
Those are the headlines. Let's take to you now with the president's lead attorney Rudy Giuliani. Mr. Mayor, thanks for joining us this morning.
Now this letter was written before you came on board, it was written by John Dowd and Jay Sekulow back in January, but do you stand by the arguments made in this letter?
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP'S LEAD ATTORNEY: Oh, they’re excellent. Yes. As a legal -- legal arguments -- I didn’t see it at the time. Obviously I wouldn’t have been allowed to, but I know the argument. and it’s very, very persuasive. It’s similar to the article written by Ted Olson about three weeks ago, Weekly Standard, saying exactly the same thing, Maybe adding a little bit more to it in terms of their not making a proper record the special counsel.
So, I mean, this is basically, I think, what most constitutional lawyers who tend to try to protect the presidency would say.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So let’s dig into some of the specifics. One, it makes it pretty clear that you don’t think the president can be compelled to testify, cannot be subpoenaed here. So does that mean the president won’t be sitting for an interview?
GIULIANI: It doesn’t mean that completely, it means that, you know, there’s got to be a high bar they have to reach in terms of convincing us that they’re fair, convincing us that we’re going to get the things we need. I want to see the spygate report, haven’t gotten it. I want to see the authorization that they have, which they gave to Judge Ellis, I think, but Judge Ellis hasn’t written an opinion yet, which convinces me there’s a real problem with it. Otherwise, the judge would have said oh yes, you’re authorized. That’s the Manafort case.
The couple of outstanding very critical -- we just can’t do it without that. I would have every lawyer that you put on the show ripping my head off if I let him be interviewed without knowing that they’re authorized.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you actually written a letter or the presidency written a new letter to Robert Mueller?
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, where you lay out the conditions that you would accept an interview?
GIULIANI: ...Jane Raskin did that for Jay and me. And Jane -- Jane basically reiterated that. We -- I think we added an extra point or we should, which is in addition to the constitutional issue which will be, you know, a complex one, we admit that, although we think we have the better argument, the one that’s definitive is the OLC, Office of Legal Council in the Justice Department wrote a memo at the conclusion of the Clinton thing, the Clinton administration, and said you cannot indict a sitting president nor can you compel process.
So it’s part of the rules of the Justice Department, and Mueller is nothing...
STEPHANOPOULOS: Has he responded to the letter?
GIULIANI: He has not.
STEPHANOPOULOS: No response to the letter.
GIULIANI: Right, and Mueller is -- is -- is completely surrounding by the rules of the Justice Department, and agreed to follow it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But -- so -- so what is the state of play exactly with Robert Mueller now? He has not responded to that letter...
GIULIANI: He’s responded to other things. You know, look I -- if I were him, I wouldn’t respond to the letter either unless I made the decision to go or not to go. If I’m not going to go, why respond to it, I’ve got other things to do. And if I am going to go, I better -- then I better spend a month on it. I mean Emmet Flood was, who is the president's in -- let’s call him his in-house counsel, you know...
STEPHANOPOULOS: At the White House.
GIULIANI: At the White House, basically this is his area of expertise. He represented President Clinton, represented President Bush, this is the area he knows probably better than anybody in the world.
So we’re -- we’re relying on him and as well as Jay and John did an excellent job, and everybody we’ve had look at this says I guess what lawyers always say, we can’t guarantee but, we’re 90 percent. Well I should say 70 percent.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But back in 1998, you argued that President Clinton could be subpoenaed. Here’s what you said to Charlie Rose.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GIULIANI: All the Watergate litigation resolved the fact that the president is not above the law, is not able to avoid subpoenas and the president has a right like anyone else to go before a judge and say this is being done for improper purpose, this is being done for purposes of harassment.
If the judge agrees with that, fine, but if the judge doesn’t, then you have to testify.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So what’s changed?
GIULIANI: Well I guess first of all I still agree with that exception, which is a president can go before a judge and say it’s for purpose of harassment, it’s unnecessary. We win that, and...
STEPHANOPOULOS: And that’s what you intend to do if you’re subpoenaed?
GIULIANI: Oh gosh yes. We’ll say hey. You got everything you need, you got 1.4 million documents. You have 28 witnesses. The President -- the president’s given every explanation and -- and -- and corrected some that were misimpressions. You’ve got everything you need. What do you need us for? In fact most prosecutors don’t have the -- the -- the subject or target or whatever you want to call the the president -- although he’s only a subject right now, and I think will remain that. They don’t have them, so they have to make a decision without it. So come on, man up and make your decision.
STEPHANOPOULOS: North Korea summit is back on. How does that play into a potential interview?
GIULIANI: Well look, you know, from our very narrow point of view, Jay and I and our team, of course, it interrupts it because it isn’t just the interview and the facts of the interview, it’s -- it’s the whole situation of are we going to do it or not do it?
This is -- this is the president’s decision ultimate, you’ve got to understand this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: He says he wants to do it.
GIULIANI: George, you’ve interviewed him. You know him. You’ve talked to him, everybody. I don’t think anybody that doubts him wants (ph) him to do it. He -- he believes he’s telling the truth. He is telling the truth. He believes that he should win -- justice should win out. I’m a lawyer. I have years of prosecution and defense, it’s not that simple. I mean what I believe is the truth, you may think isn’t. And they seem to have the heavy reliance on -- on Comey.
I think that’s going to get knocked to heck with the Horowitz report, the general -- inspector general, is -- is he’s doing the whole Hillary Clinton investigation. And I think one of the main reasons for firing Comey was how unfair that was to both of them, to both Hillary Clinton and to President Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re still recommending he does not sit down for the interview?
GIULIANI: Jay and I want to keep an open mind. And I have to just be honest, I mean we’re leaning toward not. 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 long nightmare for the -- for the American public over. When you ask me about career, you know how terrible I feel when I have to call him up? This letter comes out -- which, I mean somebody should be -- looking at these leaks, find out who the heck it is.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you have no evidence that it came from the special counsel.
GIULIANI: It could come from DOJ, it could come from a lawyer. But whoever it is, we should find out who it is. I have no -- I have no objection to sitting down and testifying and put me under oath, I don’t care.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you didn’t do it...
GIULIANI: I didn’t do it. Jay didn’t do it. Jane didn’t do it. Marty didn’t do it. Pat didn’t do it. We didn’t do it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: How about Mr. Dowd?
GIULIANI: I don’t think he did, but hey, you got to ask John. I mean John -- look, we’re very grateful to John. This was a great job. He and Jay did a great job here. They set this up beautifully. We can add the OLC argument to it, which I think puts it over the top and the Olson argument, which is the one I was talking about way back with -- with Bill Clinton and I think we win this.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The most breathtaking claim to my eyes in the letter is that claim that the president basically cannot be investigated for obstruction of justice, that he can terminate an investigation at any time for any reason. Any time for any reason?
GIULIANI: I think -- I think that -- look, when you argue, you argue the broadest possible point. We don’t have to go there.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but you do go there.
GIULIANI: Well I didn’t. I wasn’t there then. I’d save that as the last argument.
I think the stronger argument is he didn’t -- or I’ll bet he didn’t -- I mean, firing an employee when you know that another employee’s going to come in and take that job and further the investigation cannot possibly obstruct the investigation. He said that to Lester Holt when he was interviewed within days of doing it, so you’ve got a contemporaneous statement of his intent.
So how’s that obstruction?
STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me just...
GIULIANI: How about the Flynn conversation? Saying a -- saying to a potential prosecutor give the guy a break. You put Chris Christie on later and ask him how many times was he told -- asked give him a break. You know what that means, you take into consideration the fact that the man was a war hero, a patriot, a father, his children are sick, whatever, you know, the whole thing. Sometimes you don’t indict, sometimes you lessen the severity of it and sometimes you ignore it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But just to be -- just to be clear, to press that point, because the letter is very explicit. It says any time for any reason. If the FBI developed evidence that the president had accepted a bribe or committed murder, the president could terminate that investigation?
GIULIANI: I would not go that far. I would not go that far, George. I mean, John -- you’d have to ask John exactly what he’s relying on for that. I wouldn’t go that far. I think under circumstances where there’s no -- at best there’s ambiguity as to whether there was intent.
Look, for every one of these things he did, we can write out five reasons why he did it. 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...
STEPHANOPOULOS: The letter also...
GIULIANI: ...or recommend impeachment.