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Sunday 16 December 2018

Friends of Trump use TV in bid to halt Mueller quiz

US President Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington yesterday. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
US President Donald Trump attends the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington yesterday. Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

Shannon Pettypiece

As Donald Trump's lawyers continue to negotiate terms of an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, the president's allies are increasingly trying to warn him against it, using one of the few methods they have - television.

Mr Trump's longtime friends and advisers have grown increasingly concerned that a face-to-face interview with Mr Mueller could derail his presidency and are hoping to catch the president's ear during his hours of channel-surfing, said one such adviser.

In recent weeks, Mr Trump's outside advisers have gone on Fox News, CNN, and ABC's 'Good Morning America' with almost identical talking points about the risks of an interview.

The renewed urgency comes after Mr Trump told reporters last month he would "love to" speak to Mr Mueller, a statement his lawyers later tried to soften as they continue discussing the terms for a possible interview. With chief of staff John Kelly trimming back access to Mr Trump, those outside the West Wing have taken to television - and sometimes Twitter - as a main method of communication given the hours Mr Trump spends with a TV on.

While his allies say they believe Mr Trump has done nothing wrong, they question Mr Mueller's intentions and Mr Trump's ability to avoid misstatements that could be turned into a perjury charge.

Chris Ruddy, a Trump friend who talks to him occasionally at his Palm Beach resort, tweeted on Wednesday, "My advice to the President: start with written questions!" On Sunday, Mr Ruddy, founder of the conservative network Newsmax, went on CNN attacking Mr Mueller's investigation and warning Mr Trump to "stay way" from it.

Longtime adviser Roger Stone said he hasn't spoken to Mr Trump directly about his concerns but has gone on Fox News to convey them. Mr Stone said he believes an interview could be a "set-up" and that Mr Trump should submit only written replies to questions.

"I understand this from the president's point of view: He knows in his heart there is no Russian collusion and he has done nothing wrong," Mr Stone said. "However, Mueller is seeking to box him into some kind of process-related charge, either perjury or obstruction of justice in the matter of the termination of FBI Director James Comey or General Michael Flynn."

Other advisers who have gone on television to warn Trump against an interview include former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, Fox News host and former district attorney Jeanine Pirro and Fox News host Sean Hannity.

Irish Independent

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