President Donald Trump’s lawyers argued in a confidential letter to Russia special counsel Robert Mueller in January that the president could not have obstructed justice because, as the nation's chief executive, he has full authority over all federal investigations, The New York Times reported Saturday.
The Constitution, the attorneys argued, empowers Trump to, "if he wished, terminate the inquiry, or even exercise his power to pardon."
The Times said it "obtained" the 20-page letter, which was "hand-delivered" to Mueller's team in January and written by two of the president's lawyers at the time, John Dowd and Jay Sekulow.
Dowd quit Trump's legal team in March. Emmet Flood replaced another member, the retiring Ty Cobb, last month, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani then joined the team.
The Times called the letter a "brash assertion of presidential power" and said it addressed claims that foreshadowed "a potential subpoena" as the November midterm elections neared.
"We are reminded of our duty to protect the president and his office," Dowd and Sekulow wrote, contending that Mueller's team had thousands of documents in the investigation and, therefore, did not require a Trump interview.
Mueller told Dowd in March that he might subpoena Trump — and Giuliani told the newspaper Saturday that Flood was preparing for the possibility.
He added that President Trump was telling the truth, though prosecutors "have a false version of it, we believe, so you're trapped."
As such, the stakes are too high for an interview under such circumstances, Giuliani said.
"That becomes not just a prosecutable offense, but an impeachable offense," he said.
Mueller's office declined to comment.
But Trump slammed the Russia investigation on Twitter Saturday: "When will this very expensive Witch Hunt Hoax ever end?"
According to the Times, Dowd and Sekulow outlined 16 areas they said Mueller's team was investigating, including President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey last May and of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn within a month after starting the job in 2016.
They also said Mueller was probing Trump's response to Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal last year from the Moscow probe.
The lawyers argued that Trump should be credited for cooperating with investigators and even making top staffers available for questioning.
"We cannot emphasize enough that regardless of the fact that the executive privilege clearly applies to his senior staff, in the interest of complete transparency, the president has allowed — in fact, has directed — the voluntary production of clearly protected documents," Dowd and Sekulow wrote.
"Ensuring that the office remains sacred and above the fray of shifting political winds and gamesmanship is of critical importance," they added.
The lawyers also argued that Mueller's investigators should prove that they can only get the information they need from the president after having exhausted all other efforts to obtain it.
"The president’s prime function as the chief executive ought not be hampered by requests for interview," they wrote. "Having him testify demeans the office of the president before the world."
Dowd and Sekulow further argued that Trump did not obstruct justice because Constitution allows him to end investigations on any matter or dismiss subordinates for any reason.
"Every action that the president took was taken with full constitutional authority pursuant to Article II of the United States Constitution," the lawyers wrote.
"As such, these actions cannot constitute obstruction, whether viewed separately or even as a totality."
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