WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump’s lead attorney said that if the special counsel investigating Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 U.S. election were to subpoena the president, it would set off a legal battle, according to an ABC News report on Saturday.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became Trump’s lead lawyer in April, said the two sides would go to court if U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller attempts to subpoena the president.
“If Mueller tries to subpoena us, we’re going to court,” Giuliani told ABC News.
In addition to fighting a subpoena, Giuliani told ABC that Trump’s legal strategy as detailed in a January letter to Mueller and published by the New York Times on Saturday still stands.
Trump’s lawyers had argued in the January letter that the president could not have obstructed the probe given the powers granted to him by the U.S. Constitution, the Times report said.
In the letter penned by Trump lawyers John Dowd and Jay Sekulow, it was argued that president has the power to “order the termination of an investigation by the Justice Department or FBI at any time and for any reason.”
In the letter to Mueller, Trump’s lawyers had contended that the Constitution gives the president the power to “terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon,” and that meant he could not illegally obstruct the investigation, the Times reported.
The 20-page letter was a response to repeated requests by Mueller’s office asking to interview Trump. Negotiations between Trump’s lawyers and the special counsel on a possible interview have continued ever since.
As part of his investigation, Mueller is looking into the possibility the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow and that Trump subsequently tried to obstruct the probe.
Russia has denied any interference and Trump has repeatedly said there was no collusion or obstruction of justice.
Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mueller’s office declined to comment, while the White House and the two attorneys who wrote the letter - Sekulow and Dowd - did not reply to requests for comment. Dowd left the president’s legal team in March.
Giuliani said last month that he wanted any interview of Trump to be limited in scope and length, suggesting it to be only 2-1/2 hours and not under oath.
If the president does not consent to an interview with the special counsel and Mueller does subpoena him, the interpretation by Trump’s lawyers of broad executive powers would likely be tested in court if they decided to fight the subpoena.
In arguing that Trump has the power to end an investigation or pardon people, his lawyers left open the possibility that they were referring only to a probe into his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, and not necessarily an investigation of the president, the Times said.
In an earlier tweet, Trump took what appeared to be a pre-emptive swipe at the Times report shortly before it ran that questioned whether Mueller’s office or the Justice Department leaked letters from his lawyers.
“When will this very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax ever end?” Trump tweeted earlier on Saturday.
(Reporting by Timothy Gardner, Mike Stone and Karen Frefield; editing by Tim Ahmann, Daniel Wallis and G Crosse)