Donald Trump‘s ties to Russia detailed information about the president’s conduct in the matter, The New York Times reported on Saturday.
The publication, citing around a dozen current and former administration members, said that Donald McGahn has given Robert Mueller‘s investigators extensive accounts related to whether Trump obstructed justice. The interviews have totaled 30 hours over the last nine months, and have been conducted in part with the president’s encouragement, The Times reported.
Trump and his advocates have vigorously denied collaborating with Russia’s efforts to influence the election. In fact, McGahn’s cooperation was the fruit of an initial decision by Trump’s first legal team to collaborate fully with Mueller’s probe, in the belief he did nothing wrong, The Times reported.
“The president and Don have a great relationship,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, told The Times in a statement. “He appreciates all the hard work he’s done, particularly his help and expertise with the judges, and the Supreme Court” nominees.
However, the publication cited people close to McGahn as perplexed by Trump’s willingness to let the White House’s top lawyer collaborate with Mueller.
The president may be operating under the assumption that McGahn is acting as a personal lawyer, and defend Trump’s interests to investigators, the publication said, citing to a person with knowledge of his thinking.
The Times added that McGahn feared Trump might be setting the lawyer up to take the blame for any potential obstruction — prompting McGahn and his attorney to come up with a strategy designed to insulate him from any fallout.
Trump has repeatedly denounced the investigation as a partisan “witch hunt” that has no merit.
However, his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has confessed that obstructing justice accusations – which largely center around the circumstances under which Trump’s fired former FBI Director James Comey – made him nervous.
The former New York City mayor has stated that Mueller may be attempting to lure the president into a perjury charge. The two sides have been trying to hammer out a deal under which Trump would submit to questioning by Mueller.
“I’m not as comfortable [with obstruction] because it’s a matter of interpretation, not a hard and fast ‘true or not true. If you interpret his comment about firing Comey… as obstruction rather than removing a guy who was doing a bad job on the recommendation in part of [Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein, then you see it as obstructing the investigation,” ” Giuliani told CNN back in May.
He added: “And then you can say it’s perjury, which is even easier for them which is where I think they’re going.”