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NYT: Trump lawyers sent special counsel letter arguing President can't obstruct Russia probe

President Donald Trump's lawyers argued in a confidential January letter to special counsel Robert Mueller that the P...

Posted: Jun 3, 2018 2:39 PM
Updated: Jun 3, 2018 2:39 PM

President Donald Trump's lawyers argued in a confidential January letter to special counsel Robert Mueller that the President cannot illegally obstruct the Russia probe because he, as the top law enforcement officer, has authority over all federal investigations, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The 20-page letter from Trump attorney Jay Sekulow and then-Trump lawyer John Dowd, which CNN reported on last week and the Times has obtained, says that Trump could not possibly have committed obstruction in the Russia investigation because the Constitution empowers him to "terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon if he so desired."

Trump's "actions here, by virtue of his position as the chief law enforcement officer, could neither constitutionally nor legally constitute obstruction because that would amount to him obstructing himself," Dowd and Sekulow wrote.

The two argued that "no President has ever faced charges of obstruction merely for exercising his constitutional authority" and that a President can "order the termination" of a Justice Department or FBI investigation "at any time and for any reason."

Trump's lawyers sent the letter as part of a broader argument that the President should not have to sit down with the special counsel.

Citing records handed over to the special counsel and interviews Mueller's team has had with White House staff, Sekulow and Dowd wrote in the letter, "In light of these voluntary offerings, your office clearly lacks the requisite need to personally interview the President."

Members of Trump's legal team had disagreed about whether to do the interview, and the team ended up formally responding on January 29 with the letter, which included materials from documents the special counsel already had in its possession and contained constitutional objections to requiring the President's testimony, CNN reported, citing sources briefed on discussions. According to one source, Trump reviewed the letter and approved it.

The letter from Trump's team threw a wrench into the discussions until early March, CNN reported. There were then two more meetings with the special counsel's team on March 5 and March 12. At the March 5 session, according to one of the sources, Mueller made the case that only Trump himself can talk about what his intent was regarding certain actions he took after assuming the presidency, which remains the Mueller team's position.

A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment to the Times.

In multiple letters sent to the special counsel, Trump's legal team has laid out its response to issues it thought the special counsel was examining in 2017 and 2018, CNN has reported. The first letter focused on what Trump's team sees as former FBI Director James Comey's lack of credibility as a potential witness. Sources did not provide CNN with further details of that letter.

Other communications to Mueller focused on constitutional issues regarding compelling presidential testimony, the question of whether there could even be an obstruction charge and a response to topics provided by Mueller, CNN has reported.

Dowd felt so strongly that Comey lacked credibility as a witness that he also sent a letter to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein suggesting that he needed to take a look at Comey's credibility before proceeding with an investigation of the President. The letter not only mentioned Comey's conduct during the investigation into Hillary Clinton's email server but also his behavior with the President. Dowd said he received a perfunctory response.

"They did nothing about it," Dowd told CNN at the time.

Mueller has raised the possibility of a presidential subpoena, sources have told CNN, and a version of Mueller's potential questions for the President was leaked and first published by the Times in April.

Trump has publicly said he would sit down with Mueller if he's treated fairly, despite concerns from some people close to the President that such an interview could expose him to possible charges of perjury.

On Twitter earlier Saturday, Trump said there was no collusion with Russia and asked when the special counsel investigation, which he called a "very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax," would conclude.

"Is the Special Counsel/Justice Department leaking my lawyers letters to the Fake News Media?" Trump wrote. "Should be looking at Dems corruption instead?"

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders referred CNN to Trump's outside counsel when asked for comment on his tweet speculating on whether the Justice Department or special counsel is the source behind the leaked correspondence between his legal team and Mueller.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 485655

Reported Deaths: 6558
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1007641586
Ramsey43106801
Dakota36297390
Anoka33293385
Washington22078256
Stearns18734201
St. Louis14805262
Scott13290107
Wright12526115
Olmsted1178988
Sherburne872872
Carver772640
Clay691587
Rice670491
Blue Earth594735
Kandiyohi579574
Crow Wing520681
Chisago499045
Otter Tail482170
Benton446490
Winona418349
Mower404731
Douglas392668
Nobles387047
Goodhue385768
Polk343162
McLeod339349
Beltrami337951
Morrison324547
Itasca313046
Lyon313044
Becker311342
Isanti306154
Steele300411
Carlton300149
Pine282016
Freeborn280723
Nicollet258641
Todd248030
Brown245037
Le Sueur235320
Mille Lacs227447
Cass220024
Waseca208717
Meeker207434
Martin189528
Wabasha18653
Roseau180217
Hubbard160640
Houston157314
Dodge15224
Renville149640
Redwood147027
Fillmore13728
Chippewa136335
Cottonwood134820
Pennington134416
Wadena130920
Faribault123017
Aitkin118833
Sibley117310
Watonwan11738
Rock115714
Kanabec107519
Pipestone101424
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9448
Jackson93510
Swift87918
Pope8045
Marshall77815
Stevens7418
Lake74018
Clearwater71914
Lac qui Parle68416
Wilkin67110
Koochiching61811
Big Stone5163
Lincoln5062
Grant4918
Norman4788
Unassigned46768
Mahnomen4417
Kittson40921
Red Lake3625
Traverse3055
Lake of the Woods2191
Cook1180

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

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Cases: 362827

Reported Deaths: 5440
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58260551
Linn20670313
Scott18318210
Black Hawk16258292
Woodbury14979211
Johnson1384874
Dubuque13562194
Dallas1138690
Pottawattamie10791143
Story1024945
Warren556674
Clinton543784
Cerro Gordo533782
Webster519587
Marshall497272
Sioux494869
Buena Vista474537
Des Moines458861
Muscatine452291
Wapello4345108
Jasper417766
Plymouth395378
Lee375452
Marion359169
Jones294154
Henry293337
Carroll286249
Bremer280854
Crawford275135
Boone259730
Washington254347
Benton253854
Mahaska224746
Jackson221638
Dickinson217840
Tama213765
Kossuth208555
Clay193625
Hamilton192142
Delaware189140
Winneshiek189127
Buchanan185729
Fayette185235
Page183319
Hardin181439
Wright179931
Harrison179469
Cedar178523
Clayton168154
Butler167231
Mills163020
Floyd162741
Cherokee154836
Madison154718
Poweshiek154330
Hancock147130
Allamakee146747
Lyon145941
Iowa145023
Appanoose139247
Grundy139230
Jefferson138734
Winnebago138631
Cass134751
Calhoun133811
Mitchell130940
Louisa128241
Union126631
Chickasaw125215
Sac124618
Emmet121740
Shelby121733
Franklin118319
Humboldt117925
Guthrie116628
Palo Alto105221
Montgomery104136
Howard102921
Clarke100420
Unassigned9900
Keokuk98229
Monroe93328
Adair92128
Ida91432
Pocahontas85419
Davis83123
Monona81627
Greene77510
Lucas74021
Osceola70615
Worth6997
Taylor66612
Fremont5909
Decatur5829
Van Buren56118
Ringgold52320
Wayne48921
Audubon4889
Adams3274
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