It’s probably best not to pay too close attention to the day-to-day haggling over Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s interest in talking to Donald Trump. Sometime soon, either the president’s lawyers will agree to an interview or they won’t.
But once in a while, it’s hard not to marvel at the sort of things Rudy Giuliani is willing to say out loud.
Giuliani told Axios that there are two topics the president’s lawyers want to rule out in order to agree to a Trump sit-down with Mueller:
1. Why Trump fired FBI Director James Comey.
2. What Trump said to Comey about the investigation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Giuliani mentioned those as if they were minor details – totally reasonable areas for Mueller to agree to avoid.
Two weeks ago, the Wall Street Journal reported that Giuliani hoped to exclude the general topic of obstruction from any Mueller-Trump interview, but this latest report suggests the former mayor is now narrowing the focus a bit, pointing to two specific areas of inquiry that he’d like to keep off-limits.
Or put another way, the special counsel is investigating possible presidential obstruction of justice, and the Trump’s lawyer’s plan involves a deal in which the special counsel agrees in advance not to ask the president about the times he probably obstructed justice.
Giuliani seems indifferent to how this makes his client look. As we recently joked, imagine a hypothetical scenario in which law enforcement wanted to search a suspect’s home, and the person responded, “OK, you’re welcome to look around, but only if you agree in advance not to look in my shed.” It’s the sort of thing that might lead one to suspect there’s something incriminating in that guy’s shed.
Giuliani’s pitch is similar: federal investigators can ask Trump questions, but only if they agree in advance not to explore certain crimes the president may have committed.
But let’s also not forget that last year, another one of the president’s attorneys, Jay Sekulow, appeared on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” and spoke with then-host John Dickerson about Trump’s decision to fire James Comey as the director of the FBI. Asked if the president would be willing to speak under oath about the subject, Sekulow responded, “Yeah, the president was very clear about that. He said if he was asked to do it he would.”
So, what prompted Trump’s lawyers to change their minds?