Lawyers for President Trump on Wednesday rejected special counsel Robert Mueller's terms for an interview in the Russia investigation, countering with an offer that would significantly narrow the scope of what DOJ investigators can ask, reports the New York Times, which confirmed the response with Trump's personal attorney, Jay Sekulow.
Rudy Giuliani, Trump's lead attorney on the matter, pointed to copious documents the White House has already provided Mueller's team, and said "We’re restating what we have been saying for months: It is time for the Office of Special Counsel to conclude its inquiry without further delay."
The letter marked the latest back and forth in the eight months of negotiations between Mr. Trump’s lawyers and the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III. Last week, Mr. Mueller proposed a slightly altered format to the expansive interview he wants to conduct with the president.
Mr. Trump’s lawyers did not reject an interview outright but included the narrower counteroffer, one person familiar with the response said. However, the person said that Mr. Trump’s lawyers did not want him answering questions about whether he obstructed justice.
The response indicated how far apart the two sides remain. -NYT
If Trump ultimately declines to be interviewed, the special counsel could take the extraordinary step of subpoenaing the sitting president to testify before a grand jury. As the Times notes, Bill Clinton has been the only president to have been subpoenaed while in office - while he eventually agreed to a voluntary interview in order to avoid a prolonged battle in court.
Trump's attorneys are concerned that Mueller is setting a "perjury trap" - although Trump has said several times that he believes he can convince the special counsel that he is innocent, and has pushed his lawyers to continue to negotiate. By placing the ball back in Mueller's court once again, however, Trump's team risks Mueller concluding that they are negotiating in bad faith - with the likely result being a subpoena.
Law enforcement officials who have worked with Mr. Mueller, a longtime federal prosecutor and the head of the F.B.I. from 2001 to 2013, believe that he will try to use every tool he has to get the president to answer questions and that he will probably subpoena him to testify if he does not agree to be questioned voluntarily. -NYT
That said, some of Trump's legal team believes that Mueller wouldn't risk subpoenaing Trump, only to lose a court battle that could undermine the investigation's credibility with the public. The President's attorneys have threatened to right any subpoena - a battle which could eventually be decided by the Supreme Court.