President Donald Trump’s legal team rebuffed special counsel Robert Mueller’s request in recent weeks for an in-person session with Trump to ask follow-up questions.
The request was made after Trump’s team submitted written answers to a limited number of questions from Mueller’s team focusing on before Trump was in office.
As Mueller’s investigation into possible collusion between Trump associates and Russians winds down, an interview with the President remains an outstanding issue even as Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani said an interview would happen “over my dead body.” One source familiar with the matter summed it up by saying, “Mueller is not satisfied.”
People familiar with the talks describe the two sides as at loggerheads, with no meaningful discussion about the issue in about five weeks.
And the Trump team appears to have hardened its position. It’s told the Mueller team that prosecutors have no cause to seek follow-up questions in person after the President’s team submitted written responses to questions before Thanksgiving.
In November, the President submitted written answers to questions submitted by Mueller’s office that dealt largely with the allegations of Russian collusion and the time period before the inauguration.
The Trump team has all but closed the door to any further responses to Mueller, the sources say.
It was nearly a year ago that both teams first negotiated a possible presidential sit-down with Mueller at Camp David. But those talks stalled after Trump’s legal team at the time disagreed on whether to go ahead with it.
Since then, Trump’s new lawyers have counseled against doing an interview.
Recent developments – notably Mueller allowing Michael Cohen, the President’s former lawyer, to testify publicly before Congress next month – have only lessened any chance of a voluntary presidential interview, the sources said.
Cohen is set to appear before Congress after he pleaded guilty and was sentenced in December to three years in prison on multiple charges, including two campaign finance crimes tied to illicit payments made to silence women during the presidential campaign – crimes that prosecutors say Trump directed Cohen to commit.
Cohen also revealed Trump spoke with him more extensively during the presidential campaign about the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow than Cohen admitted to Congress last year. He said this while pleading guilty in federal court to a charge from Mueller’s office in November. This revelation appears to show Trump was engaged in business dealings with Russia in the midst of a campaign in which Moscow interfered to help elect him.
If Mueller did send Trump a subpoena for a grand jury testimony, historical legal precedent suggests Trump would have to answer questions under oath.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Jeremy Herb and Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.