Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, on Sunday ruled out a face to face interview between the president and special counsel Robert Mueller – because he fears investigators would try to trap Trump into lying.
As pressure increases on Trump in a range of investigations, Giuliani told Fox News Sunday that an interview would happen “over my dead body”.
Trump has given written answers to Mueller about whether his 2016 election campaign colluded with Russia. But the White House has refused to engage with requests for a sit-down interview to answer questions about whether Trump obstructed justice after he became president – most notably by firing FBI chief James Comey.
Asked if Trump would sit for an interview with Mueller, an irate Giuliani said sarcastically on Sunday: “Yeah, good luck!”
After events in the Mueller inquiry have intensified in recent weeks, involving grave consequences for criminal conduct for some key Trump allies, Giuliani said he was “disgusted” with the conduct of the Mueller investigation. He accused the special counsel’s lawyers of setting a “perjury trap” for Michael Flynn, Trump’s short-lived national security adviser.
Flynn will be sentenced on Tuesday for lying to the FBI about his contact with Russian officials during the transition period after Trump won the election in November 2016 and was preparing to take office in January 2017.
Flynn last year admitted lying to investigators about his communications with Russia’s ambassador to the US in December 2016. The discussions related to sanctions that Barack Obama as president had imposed on Moscow over its interference in the US election, and a United Nations security council vote on halting new Israeli settlements.
But Flynn’s lawyers, in appealing for leniency, noted that FBI agents had decided not to warn him that it was a crime to lie during an FBI interview “because they wanted Flynn to be relaxed”.
They had wiretaps of the Russian ambassador which theylater used to confront Flynn to show he had lied. Flynn then agreed to co-operate with Mueller’s investigation and has given “substantial assistance” to the Trump-Russia investigation and other inquiries.
Mueller recommended to a judge that Flynn, who participated in 19 interviews, should not be given a prison sentence.
A sentencing memo said Flynn had given firsthand accounts of “interactions between individuals in the presidential transition team and Russia”.
Giuliani said on Sunday: “I am disgusted with the tactics they have used in this case … what they did to General Flynn should result in discipline – they are the ones who are violating the law.”
Asked about a face-to-face interview between Trump and Mueller, Giuliani scoffed: “Yeah, good luck! After what they did to Flynn, the way they trapped him into perjury … over my dead body.”
Officials, however, have balked at the notion that Flynn would not have already been acutely aware of the risks of lying to federal investigators.
Giuliani’s remarks came as new polling showed six in 10 Americans now believe Trump has been untruthful about the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Half of Americans polled said the investigation has given them doubts about Trump’s presidency, according to a new national NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.
“The dam has not burst on Donald Trump,” said the Democratic pollster Peter Hart, whose firm conducted the survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. “But this survey suggests all the structural cracks in the dam,” he told NBC News.
The poll was conducted in the week former Trump fixer Michael Cohen was sentenced to three years in prison for offences including breaking campaign finance laws by arranging hush money payments. Large sums were paid to porn actor and producer Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal to prevent them talking in the final days of the 2016 election campaign about alleged affairs with Trump.
Cohen – denounced as a “pathological liar” by Giuliani – has said Trump knew about the payments. And in court last week, in vital corroborating evidence, the publisher of National Enquirer admitted it had coordinated with Trump’s presidential campaign to pay McDougal $150,000 “in concert with the campaign”.
The agreement between American Media Inc (AMI) and federal authorities that means the company will not face charges, said that in August 2015, Cohen and “at least one other member of the campaign” met AMI’s chief executive David Pecker, who “offered to help deal with negative stories” about Trump during the presidential campaign. Reports have suggested that Trump was the other person in the room.
In a second interview on Sunday with ABC’s This Week, Giuliani said: “Whether it happened or didn’t, it’s not illegal.”
On Sunday morning, Donald Trump posted on Twitter: “Remember, Michael Cohen only became a “Rat” after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started. They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY’S OFFICE! Why didn’t they break into the DNC to get the Server, or Crooked’s office?”
The latter references involve the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the governing body of the Democratic party, and, presumably, Hillary Clinton, Trump’s rival for the White House, whom he nicknamed Crooked Hillary because she was investigated by the FBI for using a private server for emails while she was secretary of state, and admonished, though cleared of any illegal activity.