Nov 21, 2018

1. Behind the scenes: Trump vs. Mueller

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

President Trump delivered to Robert Mueller handwritten answers about pre-election dimensions of the Russia probe but did not answer questions about his behavior as president, including allegations of obstruction of justice — and will resist doing so in the future — his lawyer Rudy Giuliani tells Axios.

The big picture: It is possible that Mueller will subpoena Trump regarding his activities as president. But Rudy said he has reason to suspect he won’t: "I think that he would not win a legal battle if he did that, and I think it would consume months." If Mueller does, the president’s view is clear: He will refuse to cooperate. 

The high-stakes exchange with Mueller included no questions or answers about obstruction of justice. But Giuliani said: "I can't tell you he's given up on obstruction."

  • "I don't think he has any way to compel testimony on obstruction because the argument of executive privilege would be very, very strong. It all relates to a period of time after he was president."
  • "[A]ny question he has on obstruction, ... [t]he president has given [the answers] in interviews, tweets. Other witnesses have given it to him."
  • "And the law definitely requires that if you're going to subpoena a president, you have to show that you can't get the information any place else."

Giuliani expressed breezy confidence about Trump's legal position: "I don't think they have any evidence of collusion of any kind. I think their obstruction case, as a legal matter, doesn't exist."And Giuliani suggested that he doubts Don Jr. will be indicted in connection with the Trump Tower meeting.

  • "I don't see what for," Giuliani said. "The meeting turned out to be a big bust. ... It's a very unattractive crime [for a prosecutor] when somebody meets with you and then you don't do anything."

If Donald Trump were an "ordinary client," it would've taken "four, five, six hours" and two meetings to answer Mueller's questions, Giuliani told me. But the process dragged out for almost a year.

  • The Mueller questionnaire "looked like a law school exam ... one big long group of questions, that were multi-part questions," Giuliani said.
  • Giuliani said that he and fellow Trump lawyers Jay Sekulow and Jane Raskin sat with Trump whenever they could grab him, in the Oval Office and in the president's private dining room adjoining the Oval.
  • They didn't tape — the lawyers took handwritten notes of Trump's answers before having them typed up.

Giuliani wouldn't tell us what questions Mueller asked. But when pressed, he conceded Mueller asked about two subjects:

  1. Mueller asked whether Trump knew at the time about his son, Don Jr., meeting with Russians in Trump Tower.
  2. Mueller asked about the Russian hacks during the campaign that immediately followed Trump's July 27, 2016, press conference in Florida, when Trump said: "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 [Hillary Clinton] emails that are missing."

Before submitting their answers, Giuliani and the Trump team met "not much" with Mueller himself. Giuliani said they've had "numerous telephone conferences" with the Mueller team.

  • "They're all very circumspect," Giuliani said. He said they've never given him a timeline or a sense of when the investigation would end.
  • I asked Giuliani whether his personal interactions with the Mueller team ever got awkward given he's been trashing them, almost daily at times, in the press. Have they ever confronted him about his attacks on their character and motives? "Hasn't come up," Giuliani said.

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Supreme Court sides with California on coronavirus worship service rules

The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court's liberal justices, to reject a challenge to California's pandemic restrictions on worship services.

Why it matters: This is a setback for those seeking to speed the reopening of houses of worship, including President Trump.

Updated 59 mins ago - Politics & Policy

In photos: Protesters clash with police nationwide over George Floyd

Police officers grapple with protesters in Atlanta. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Police used tear gas, rubber bullets and pepper spray as the protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd spread nationwide on Friday evening.

The big picture: Police responded in force in cities ranging from Atlanta to Des Moines, Houston to Detroit, D.C. to Milwaukee and Denver to Louisville.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 5,923,432— Total deaths: 364,836 — Total recoveries — 2,493,434Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,745,930 — Total deaths: 102,808 — Total recoveries: 406,446 — Total tested: 16,099,515Map.
  3. Public health: Hydroxychloroquine prescription fills exploded in March —How the U.S. might distribute a vaccine.
  4. 2020: North Carolina asks RNC if convention will honor Trump's wish for no masks or social distancing.
  5. Business: Fed chair Powell says coronavirus is "great increaser" of income inequality.
  6. 1 sports thing: NCAA outlines plan to get athletes back to campus.