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.

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)