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President Donald Trump says legal scholars have stated he has the “absolute right to pardon” himself, but questioned why he would do that when he has “done nothing wrong” in connection with Russian meddling in the 2016 election.
Commenting Monday on Twitter, Trump repeated his branding of the year-long probe led by special counsel Robert Mueller as a “never ending witch hunt.”
On Sunday, Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said the president, who has pardoned three conservative figures who have been convicted of crimes, has “no intention of pardoning himself.” But Giuliani added that “it would be an open question” whether he could do so, while acknowledging there would be a political firestorm in the United States if he did.
“Pardoning himself would be unthinkable and probably lead to immediate impeachment,” Giuliani told NBC’s Meet the Press.
In another tweet Monday, Trump claimed Mueller’s appointment a year ago over his objections “is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL! Despite that, we play the game because I, unlike the Democrats, have done nothing wrong!”
Giuliani told ABC News it is an “open question” whether Trump will answer questions from members of Mueller’s team, but that his lawyers are leaning to not allowing him to be interviewed.
Trump has long said he wants to answer questions from Mueller, but Giuliani said, “It’s beginning to get resolved” to not permitting the U.S. leader to sit for questioning. Giuliani has suggested Trump could be caught in a perjury trap, and charged with lying under oath, a criminal offense.
Giuliani, a former New York City mayor, said Trump’s legal team might allow an interview if it is “brief, to the point,” but are “leaning to not.”
Trump lawyers contended in a 20-page letter to Mueller in January, before Giuliani joined the president’s legal team, that he cannot be compelled to testify through a subpoena and argued he could not have obstructed justice by firing FBI director James Comey when he was leading the Russia investigation because as president he has unlimited power to terminate the investigation.
Giuliani called the letter, first disclosed Saturday by The New York Times, “very, very persuasive.” He said Trump’s lawyers would contest in court any attempt to subpoena Trump to answer questions.
Giuliani said Trump’s lawyers would tell Mueller’s team that “you’ve got everything you need, 1.4 million documents, 28 witnesses” to conclude its investigation.
“So we’ll say, ‘Come on, own up and make your decision,” Giuliani said. Trump “believes he’s telling the truth,” he added. “He is telling the truth” that there was no collusion with Russia to help him win and that he did not obstruct justice.
The Trump lawyer said “at best there was ambiguity” whether Trump obstructed justice in his dismissal of Comey in May 2017, which then led Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, over Trump’s objections, to name Mueller to lead the probe.
Within days of ousting Comey, Trump said that when he dismissed him he was thinking of “this Russia thing,” because he thought it was a made-up excuse by Democrats looking for a reason for Trump’s upset win over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Last week, Trump said that was not the reason, but offered no other explanation.
Giuliani said he believes Mueller will conclude the investigation by September 1, “so we can get this long nightmare over for the American people.”
Long-standing Justice Department rules have concluded that a sitting president cannot be indicted for criminal wrongdoing. But Mueller could lay out his findings in a report that could eventually be turned over to Congress, where lawmakers could, if they decided there was wrongdoing by Trump, pursue his impeachment.
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