Trump lashes out at investigation into obstruction of justice

US President Donald Trump asserted that there was no wrongdoing to be uncovered in the special counsel investigation.
US President Donald Trump asserted that there was no wrongdoing to be uncovered in the special counsel investigation.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST) - US President Donald Trump on Wednesday (May 2) called an investigation into possible obstruction of justice a "setup & trap" in a defiant morning tweet in which he once again asserted that there was no wrongdoing to be uncovered in the special counsel investigation.

Mr Trump's tweet comes amid ongoing negotiations between his lawyers and special counsel Robert Mueller over whether the President will consent to an interview as part of the probe of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential election.

In March, Mr Mueller warned during a meeting with Mr Trump's lawyers that he could issue a subpoena for the President to appear before a grand jury, according to four people familiar with the encounter.

Mr Mueller has been investigating both whether Mr Trump's campaign colluded with Russia and whether Mr Trump has sought to obstruct the investigation, and has signalled he would like to question Mr Trump in both areas.

"There was no Collusion (it is a Hoax) and there is no Obstruction of Justice (that is a setup & trap)," Mr Trump wrote on Twitter on Wednesday morning, again calling the investigation a "Witch Hunt!"

Mr Trump also suggested he was more focused on the duties of his office, including negotiations over the denuclearisation of North Korea and trade agreements.

Mr Trump had said previously that he would be willing to have a face-to-face meeting with Mr Mueller or his team, but more recently, he has wavered on the prospect.

Some of Mr Trump's advisers have counselled that he could risk being accused of perjury if he submits to open-ended questioning from Mr Mueller and provides meandering answers.

Following a testy meeting in March, Mr Mueller's team agreed to provide the President's lawyers with more specific information about the subjects that prosecutors wished to discuss with the President.

With those details in hand, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow compiled a list of 49 questions that the team believed the President would be asked, according to people familiar with the encounter.

The questions focus on events during the Trump campaign, transition and presidency that have long been known to be under scrutiny, including the President's reasons for firing then Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey and the pressure he put on Attorney-General Jeff Sessions to resign.

Earlier this week, Mr Trump suggested on Twitter that he would not be vulnerable to obstruction charges if there were no coordination between his campaign and Russia.

"It would seem very hard to obstruct justice for a crime that never happened! Witch Hunt!" Mr Trump wrote.

But that, many legal experts say, is a misunderstanding of the law, that people can be charged by prosecutors with obstruction of justice even if no underlying crime is proven.

Appearing on Fox News on Wednesday, lawyer Victoria Toensing warned that Mr Trump could be accused of perjury if something he said in an interview with Mr Mueller conflicted with claims by Mr Comey.

Ms Toensing, who was recruited for Mr Trump's legal team but did not join because of client conflicts, recalled the case of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to vice-president Dick Cheney.

Libby, whom Ms Toensing represented, was convicted of obstruction of justice and other charges in 2007 stemming from an investigation into the leak of a CIA officer's identity. But Libby was never charged with leaking the officer's identity.

Mr Trump issued a pardon to Libby last month.