Trump's lawyers argued president could not have obstructed Russia probe -NYT

WASHINGTON, June 2 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's lawyers argued in a letter to the special counsel investigating Russia's alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election that the president could not have obstructed the probe given the powers granted to him by the U.S. Constitution, the New York Times reported on Saturday.

In the Jan. 29 letter to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Trump's lawyers contended that the Constitution gives the president the power to "terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon," and that meant he could not illegally obstruct the investigation, the Times reported.

The 20-page letter was a response to repeated requests by Mueller's office asking to interview Trump. Negotiations between Trump's lawyers and the special counsel on a possible interview have continued since.

As part of his investigation, Mueller is looking into the possibility the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow and that Trump subsequently tried to obstruct the probe.

Russia has denied any interference and Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion or obstruction.

33 PHOTOS
Trump's tweets about the Mueller Russia probe
See Gallery
Trump's tweets about the Mueller Russia probe
So disgraceful that the questions concerning the Russian Witch Hunt were “leaked” to the media. No questions on Col… https://t.co/T2n7SAWgJp
There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap). What there i… https://t.co/WU8JFuWLJi
House Intelligence Committee rules that there was NO COLLUSION between the Trump Campaign and Russia. As I have bee… https://t.co/n4809kuVx3
Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released. “No evidence” that the Trump Campaign “colluded, coordinate… https://t.co/3erasoPL4N
This memo totally vindicates “Trump” in probe. But the Russian Witch Hunt goes on and on. Their was no Collusion an… https://t.co/GPYj4JbKgN
It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!
This is the single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!
You are witnessing the single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history - led by some very bad and conflicted people! #MAGA
“Russians had no compromising information on Donald Trump” @FoxNews Of course not, because there is none, and neve… https://t.co/R9sniNq1ar
Congratulations to @ABC News for suspending Brian Ross for his horrendously inaccurate and dishonest report on the… https://t.co/wEVP4iGN6n
The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was base… https://t.co/oMCKEA7WmJ
The 13 Angry Democrats in charge of the Russian Witch Hunt are starting to find out that there is a Court System in… https://t.co/W32TtSNOrw
A must watch: Legal Scholar Alan Dershowitz was just on @foxandfriends talking of what is going on with respect to… https://t.co/EZ7cdgtUUo
A TOTAL WITCH HUNT!!!
A complete Witch Hunt!
The Russia Witch Hunt is rapidly losing credibility. House Intelligence Committee found No Collusion, Coordination… https://t.co/MMfLEunjG6
The single greatest Witch Hunt in American history continues. There was no collusion, everybody including the Dems… https://t.co/j7rc1QKCLw
James Comey Memos just out and show clearly that there was NO COLLUSION and NO OBSTRUCTION. Also, he leaked classif… https://t.co/YfMYBrTkza
As the phony Russian Witch Hunt continues, two groups are laughing at this excuse for a lost election taking hold, Democrats and Russians!
...case against him & now wants to clear his name by showing "the false or misleading testimony by James Comey, John Brennan..." Witch Hunt!
The MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN agenda is doing very well despite the distraction of the Witch Hunt. Many new jobs, high business enthusiasm,..
Jared Kushner did very well yesterday in proving he did not collude with the Russians. Witch Hunt. Next up, 11 year old Barron Trump!
When James Clapper himself, and virtually everyone else with knowledge of the witch hunt, says there is no collusion, when does it end?
My son Donald did a good job last night. He was open, transparent and innocent. This is the greatest Witch Hunt in political history. Sad!
Despite the phony Witch Hunt going on in America, the economic & jobs numbers are great. Regulations way down, jobs and enthusiasm way up!
A total WITCH HUNT with massive conflicts of interest!
Is this Phony Witch Hunt going to go on even longer so it wrongfully impacts the Mid-Term Elections, which is what… https://t.co/7LtsbGyV80
The Mueller probe should never have been started in that there was no collusion and there was no crime. It was base… https://t.co/oMCKEA7WmJ
Much of the bad blood with Russia is caused by the Fake & Corrupt Russia Investigation, headed up by the all Democr… https://t.co/eA1AtTPv49
“Special Council is told to find crimes, whether a crime exists or not. I was opposed to the selection of Mueller t… https://t.co/KYsOPqiVBG
I have agreed with the historically cooperative, disciplined approach that we have engaged in with Robert Mueller (… https://t.co/yjSuYhmzJb
Why does the Mueller team have 13 hardened Democrats, some big Crooked Hillary supporters, and Zero Republicans? An… https://t.co/wKNAVhWJcz
If I wanted to fire Robert Mueller in December, as reported by the Failing New York Times, I would have fired him.… https://t.co/wi7FDNjqK7
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Mueller's office declined to comment, while the White House and the two attorneys who wrote the letter, Jay Sekulow and John Dowd, did not reply to requests for comment. Dowd left the president's legal team in March.

Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became Trump's lead lawyer in April, said last month that he wanted any interview of Trump to be limited in scope and length, suggesting it to be only 2-1/2 hours and not under oath.

If the president does not consent to an interview and Mueller instead subpoenas him, the interpretation of executive powers by Trump's lawyers would likely be tested in court if they decided to fight the subpoena.

In arguing that Trump has the power to end an investigation or pardon people, his lawyers left open the possibility that they were referring only to a probe into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and not necessarily an investigation of the president, the New York Times said.

Trump took what appeared to be a pre-emptive swipe at the New York Times report shortly before it ran in a tweet that questioned whether Mueller's office or the Justice Department leaked letters from his lawyers.

"When will this very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax ever end?" Trump said in the tweet.

(Reporting by Timothy Gardner; editing by Tim Ahmann and Daniel Wallis)

Read Full Story