Trump's legal team emboldened by inspector general report
Posted June 15, 2018 2:14 p.m. EDT
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Donald Trump's attorneys, armed with the Department of Justice inspector general's report excoriating former FBI Director James Comey, now believe they can challenge any effort by the special counsel to pursue a subpoena seeking the President's testimony on obstruction of justice, according to sources familiar with their thinking.
Trump's attorneys huddled for several hours with the President Thursday to plan their next moves as they prepare to meet with special counsel Robert Mueller's team in the near future. It soon became clear that the report is now a central part of their strategy to fight the Russia probe and to prove there is no need for the President to testify.
The "insubordinate" Comey behavior, as it was described in the report, gives Trump's lawyers ammunition, according to sources, to argue that Trump had no improper motive in firing Comey -- which they claim had nothing to do with Russia.
In a tweet Friday morning, Trump called the report "a total disaster" for Comey.
Trump's lawyers will argue that the report's criticism of Comey makes it clear the President fired him for the right reasons -- and the decision was not part of an effort to obstruct justice. "Obstruction is dead. There was no obstruction," said one source close to Trump, adding that his team believes there is now no need to interview the President.
However, the President himself told NBC's Lester Holt last year that when he decided to fire Comey, "I said to myself, I said, 'You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.'"
Trump's lawyers now believe that since the IG report gave those at the FBI "the benefit of the doubt" about their behavior -- finding no conspiracy -- then the President should receive the same treatment. "Why doesn't that apply to the President as well?" one source said.
In addition, while the IG report found no evidence of political bias, the President's attorneys believe they can argue the entire investigation is tainted and corrupt, given the text from FBI Agent Peter Strzok that said about Trump's election, "We'll stop it."
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani weighed in on Fox News on Friday, saying, "They (Mueller) should end it... The IG report basically tells you that both prongs of the Mueller investigation are either corrupt or answered."
The President echoed Giuliani on Friday morning saying, "What you'll really see is bias against me and against tens of millions of my followers. That is really a disgrace." Earlier, the President had responded to the news of the Strzok text by tweeting, "Doesn't get any lower than that."
One source added that Trump's attorneys believe that the texts sent by Strzok -- who was an initial member of the FBI's Russia team -- prove there was "direct, explicit and substantial" evidence that high-level people at the FBI who began the Russia investigation had a clear bias against the President.
The IG report did not address whether Strzok's political views affected the Russia investigation.
Giuliani on Fox News Friday morning went so far as to suggest that both Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should say "enough is enough" and should "turn to investigate the corrupt investigators and clean up the FBI."
The President's lawyers believe they can put together what one source called a "compelling story" to effectively put the entire Justice Department on trial if Mueller's investigation continues.