Political News

Mueller Plans to Wrap Up Obstruction Inquiry Into Trump by Sept. 1, Giuliani Says

Posted May 20, 2018 6:42 p.m. EDT
Updated May 20, 2018 6:54 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — The special counsel plans to finish by Sept. 1 the investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed the Russia inquiry, according to the president’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, who said Sunday that waiting any longer would risk improperly influencing voters in the midterm elections in November.

The office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, shared its timeline about two weeks ago amid negotiations over whether Trump will be questioned by investigators, Giuliani said, adding that Mueller’s office said the date was contingent on Trump’s agreeing to be interviewed. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Giuliani’s comments were an apparent attempt to publicly pressure Mueller amid their interview negotiations. He urged that the investigation be wrapped up as soon as possible, pointing as a cautionary tale to the revelation by former FBI Director James Comey in the last days of the 2016 presidential race that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Comey’s announcement is widely blamed by Democrats for costing her the election. The FBI found no wrongdoing.

“You don’t want another repeat of the 2016 election where you get contrary reports at the end and you don’t know how it affected the election,” Giuliani said.

Handing in a report to the Justice Department on his findings in the obstruction case would not signal the end of Mueller’s work. The obstruction examination is one piece of Mueller’s broader inquiry, a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Counterintelligence investigations are used to gather information quietly about the activities of foreign powers and their agents — sometimes for years — and can result in criminal charges.

Giuliani sought to frame the outcome of the obstruction investigation as pitting the credibility of one man against another: Trump vs. Comey. The president asked Comey in the early days of the administration to end the investigation into his first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, according to contemporaneous memos and congressional testimony by Comey. The president’s request is one of the main episodes Mueller is examining to determine whether Trump had criminal intent to obstruct the Russia investigation.

“We want the concentration of this to be on Comey versus the president’s credibility, and I think we win that and people get that,” Giuliani said, adding that he also hoped that the Justice Department would open a criminal investigation into Comey for perjury and for his role in the sharing of information cited in New York Times reports last year about his encounters with the president that prompted Mueller’s appointment.

The president, Giuliani said, wants the report to be made public. His comments echoed tweets by Trump hours earlier, when he complained that a prolonged inquiry would hurt Republicans in the midterms.

“Now that the Witch Hunt has given up on Russia and is looking at the rest of the World, they should easily be able to take it into the Mid-Term Elections where they can put some hurt on the Republican Party,” Trump wrote. “Don’t worry about Dems FISA Abuse, missing Emails or Fraudulent Dossier!”

Giuliani said that he and Mueller’s office were still hammering out the terms of an interview with the president. He portrayed his client as a willing interview subject, saying that in the president’s view, no evidence exists that his associates coordinated with Russia’s election interference.

Giuliani said that an interview would be a distraction for the president and that the amount of preparation required meant that the president could not sit for questioning until after the scheduled summit meeting between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on June 12 in Singapore. Based on that schedule, Giuliani said, the president could be questioned around Independence Day.