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Giuliani:No Trump Interview by Mueller 12/17 06:16

   With a number of probes moving closer to the Oval Office, President Donald 
Trump and his attorney unleashed a fresh series of attacks on the 
investigators, questioning their integrity while categorically ruling out the 
possibility of a presidential interview with the special counsel.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- With a number of probes moving closer to the Oval Office, 
President Donald Trump and his attorney unleashed a fresh series of attacks on 
the investigators, questioning their integrity while categorically ruling out 
the possibility of a presidential interview with the special counsel.

   Trump and Rudy Giuliani used Twitter and television interviews Sunday to 
deliver a series of broadsides against special counsel Robert Mueller and 
federal prosecutors in New York. Giuliani said he was "disgusted" by the 
tactics used by Mueller in his probe into Russian election interference, 
including in securing guilty pleas from the president's former national 
security adviser Michael Flynn on a charge of lying to federal investigators.

   Trump, Giuliani said, would not submit to an interview by Mueller's team.

   "They're a joke," Giuliani told "Fox News Sunday." ''Over my dead body, but, 
you know, I could be dead."

   The special counsel, who is investigating possible ties between the Trump 
campaign 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.

   Giuliani sarcastically said that 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, the special 
counsel's team could theoretically seek to subpoena him to compel 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 that 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.

   The special counsel's investigation has spun out charges and strong-armed 
guilty pleas from Trump underlings while keeping in suspense whether the 
president --- "Individual-1," in Mueller's coded legalese --- will end up 
accused of criminal behavior himself. This past week, his 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 trysts with Trump. Prosecutors and Cohen say he acted at the president's 
direction, which Trump and Giuliani deny.

   Trump and Giuliani have repeatedly tried to paint Cohen as untrustworthy, 
with the former New York City mayor calling him a "pathological liar."

   "Which is the truth?" Giuliani said of the competing stories from Trump and 
Cohen. "I think I know what the truth is. Unless you're God, you'll never know 
what the truth is."

   Trump and Giuliani 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!"

   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 a variety of matters, among them a $130,000 payment made to 
porn actress Stormy Daniels by Cohen. The application for the warrant was 
approved high in the Justice Department.

   In response to Trump's tweet, former FBI Director James Comey tweeted, "This 
is from the President of our country, lying about the lawful execution of a 
search warrant issued by a federal judge. Shame on Republicans who don't speak 
up at this moment --- for the FBI, the rule of law, and the truth.

   Prosecutors have said Trump directed Cohen to arrange the payments to buy 
the silence of Daniels and former Playboy model Karen McDougal in the run-up to 
the 2016 campaign. Federal prosecutors in New York say the payments amounted to 
illegal campaign contributions because they were made at the height of election 
season to keep voters from learning of Trump's alleged infidelities.

   Giuliani has argued the payments were made to protect Trump's family, not to 
influence the election.

   "If there's another purpose, it's not a campaign contribution," Giuliani 
told ABC. "Suppose he tried to use campaign funds to pay Stormy Daniels. It 
wouldn't be illegal. These are not campaign contributions."

   The hush money wasn't initially reported on campaign finance documents and, 
in any case, far exceeded the legally acceptable amount for in-kind 
contributions. The federal limit on individual contributions is $2,700.

   Cohen also pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about the Trump 
Organization's goals to build a tower in Moscow. His representative, Lanny 
Davis, told CBS' "Face the Nation" on Sunday that his written statement to 
Congress, which contained the lie, was published ahead of his testimony and 
Cohen then spoke to the White House.

   "Not one person from the White House ever said, 'Don't lie,'" Davis said.

   Rep. Elijah Cummings, the top Democrat on the House oversight committee and 
the likely chairman come January, said he wanted Cohen to testify before 
Congress about what he told prosecutors. Meanwhile, Trump's fellow Republican, 
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, acknowledged on CNN that "it was not a good week 
for President Trump" and urged "that the special counsel be allowed to complete 
his investigation unimpeded."

   Trump compared his situation to one involving President Barack Obama's 2008 
campaign. The Federal Election Commission docked the Obama campaign $375,000 
for regulatory civil violations. The fines stemmed from the campaign's failure 
to report a batch of contributions, totaling nearly $1.9 million, on time in 
the final days of the campaign.

   But legal analysts said the accusations against Trump could amount to a 
felony because they revolve around an alleged conspiracy to conceal payments 
from campaign contribution reports --- and from voters. It's unclear what 
federal prosecutors in New York will decide to do if they conclude that there 
is evidence that Trump himself committed a crime.

   Trump has not yet laid out a detailed defense, though he could conceivably 
argue that the payments were made not for the purposes of advancing his 
campaign but rather to prevent salacious stories from emerging that would be 
personally humiliating to him and harm his marriage.

   That argument was advanced by former Sen. John Edwards, a North Carolina 
Democrat, in a similar campaign finance case that went to trial in 2012. But 
that may be tougher for Trump than it was for Edwards given the proximity of 
the president's payment to the election --- timing that, on its face, suggests 
a link between the money and his political ambitions. Edwards was acquitted on 
one count of accepting illegal campaign contributions, but jurors couldn't 
reach a verdict on the five remaining counts, including conspiracy and making 
false statements.


(KA)

 
 
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