Friday 18 January 2019

'Over my dead body' - Giuliani blocks attempt to question Trump

Mueller refused permission to quiz US president during investigations into alleged Russian collusion

Festive: President Donald Trump with first lady Melania during the Congressional Ball in the grand foyer of the White House. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP
Festive: President Donald Trump with first lady Melania during the Congressional Ball in the grand foyer of the White House. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Jonathan Lemire

Donald Trump and his lawyer have unleashed a fresh series of attacks on the probe into alleged Russian collusion, ruling out the possibility of a presidential interview with special counsel Robert Mueller.

The US president and Rudy Giuliani used Twitter and television interviews to deliver a series of broadsides against Mr Mueller and federal prosecutors in New York.

Mr Giuliani said he was "disgusted" by the tactics used by Mr Mueller in his probe into Russian election interference, including securing guilty pleas from the president's former national security adviser Michael Flynn on a charge of lying to federal investigators.

He insisted Mr Trump would not submit to an interview by Mr Mueller's team.

"They're a joke," Mr Giuliani said in an interview. "Over my dead body, but, you know, I could be dead," he joked.

The special counsel, who is investigating possible ties between the Trump presidential campaign in 2016 and Russia, has continued to request an interview with the president.

Last month, the White House sent written answers in response to the special counsel's questions about possible collusion. The White House has resisted answering questions on possible obstruction of justice.

Mr Giuliani sarcastically said the only thing left to ask the president was about "several unpaid parking tickets that night, back in 1986-87 that haven't been explained".

If the president officially refuses an interview request, Mr Mueller's team could theoretically seek to subpoena him to force his testimony. Such a move would almost certainly trigger an immediate court fight.

The Supreme Court has never directly ruled on whether a president can be subpoenaed for testimony in a criminal investigation, though the justices have said a president can be forced to turn over records that have been subpoenaed and can be forced to answer questions as part of a lawsuit.

Mr Trump's legal exposure grew as his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, was sentenced to three years in prison after admitting he issued hush-money payments to women who alleged sexual affairs with Mr Trump.

Prosecutors and Cohen say he acted at the president's direction, which Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani deny.

Mr Trump and Mr Giuliani have repeatedly tried to paint Cohen as untrustworthy, with the former New York City mayor calling him a "pathological liar". The president and his lawyer have also accused prosecutors of intimidating the president's associates into making false claims.

"Remember, Michael Cohen only became a 'Rat' after the FBI did something which was absolutely unthinkable & unheard of until the Witch Hunt was illegally started," Trump tweeted. "They BROKE INTO AN ATTORNEY'S OFFICE!"

However, observers point out it was not a break-in. The FBI executed a search warrant obtained from a judge in conducting a raid in April on Cohen's home, office and hotel room and seizing records on matters including a $130,000 payment made to porn actress Stormy Daniels by Cohen.

The warrant was approved at high level in the Justice Department.

Irish Independent

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