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How The Letter From Trump's Lawyers Fits Into The President's Legal Strategy

Jun 4, 2018
Originally published on June 4, 2018 9:39 pm
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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Let's bring in NPR's Ryan Lucas, who covers the Justice Department and has been listening in there. Hey, Ryan.

RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Hello there.

KELLY: All right, so this letter from Trump's lawyers, which we should say was sent back in January to Robert Mueller - we heard one view there that this is an effort to bully. What do we actually know about how this might fit into the president's legal strategy?

LUCAS: Well, remember; much of what the letter argues are things that we've heard before from the president's legal team in the past several months. And it's important to remember, as Vladeck mentioned, this memo hasn't appeared in a vacuum. It is part of a long-running negotiation between the president's lawyers and Mueller's team about President Trump sitting down for a possible interview with investigators. Those discussions are still taking place. The stakes for them of course are very high.

Trump has said he wants to do it, although he's also said he'll take his lawyers' advice into consideration. One of the president's new lead lawyers, Rudy Giuliani, has made clear that he's suspicious of Mueller's team. He's wary of allowing the president to sit down for an interview. And Giuliani thinks an interview could be used as a trap to get the president to commit perjury.

KELLY: Back to your point that a lot of the legal arguments in this letter aren't new, these are things that the president's team has made before - prompts the question of how much this letter actually matters in the grand scheme. It also prompts me to wonder who benefits, Ryan, from it being made public.

LUCAS: Right. The letter matters for a couple of reasons. For one, it helps shape at least in a way how the public perceives a potential fight over an interview. After this letter leaked, the president's legal team, for example, was able to get its views to dominate kind of the narrative, the discussion for much of this past weekend.

KELLY: Right. Here we sit talking about it again.

LUCAS: Exactly. Take Rudy Giuliani. So he was on Sunday news talk shows advocating the White House's views on this. The letter's publication also helped shape how the public perceives the Mueller investigation more broadly. Now, how's that the case? Well, Mueller's team doesn't talk. Mueller runs a very tight ship. He's known for that, and his office is known for not leaking.

Giuliani, on the other hand, has been very vocal in public, defending the president. He's attacked the investigation, and the president's allies have as well, as has the president himself of course. Just this morning, the president tweeted that the investigation is a never-ending witch hunt. He said it's led by 13 very angry and conflicted Democrats. He said, as we mentioned earlier, that Mueller's appointment was unconstitutional. And he also over the weekend essentially accused Mueller's team of leaking this letter. And as I said before, Mueller's team doesn't talk. They don't leak, so there's no response from them.

KELLY: NPR's Ryan Lucas, thank you.

LUCAS: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.