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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

U.S. border cities again see low violent crime rates

Expand chart
Data: FBI, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Census Bureau; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Reported violent crime in the United States rose in 2020 for the first time in four years, but violent crime rates in 11 of the largest communities along the U.S.-Mexico border stayed below the national average, an Axios analysis found. 

Why it matters: Year after year, data showing low violent crime rates in majority-Mexican American and Mexican immigrant border communities dispels myths of the U.S.-Mexico border as a region filled with crime and chaos.

Biden says presidency "will be determined" by outcome of spending plans

President Biden walks with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi after addressing the House Democratic caucus on Thursday. Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden told the House Democratic caucus Thursday "my presidency will be determined" by the votes he wants in the next week on his $1.75 trillion social safety net expansion and $1.2 trillion infrastructure package.

Driving the news: Biden made the comment, according to a source in the room, as he tried to rally support for the $1.75 trillion package. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acted immediately, calling for a vote on the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill later in the day.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
1 hour ago - Energy & Environment

China declines to speed emissions cuts in new UN pledge

A view of the skyscrapers in the haze in Shanghai, China, in December 2020. Photo: Feature China/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Chinese leaders are sticking with a prior target to bring the country's carbon emissions to a peak before 2030, according to documents filed with the United Nations Thursday under the Paris climate agreement.

Why it matters: The new documents come just days ahead of the UN climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow. China is by far the world's largest greenhouse gas emitter, and its emissions path is key to whether the temperature-limiting goals of the Paris agreement can remain within reach.