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Mueller Plans to Wrap Up Obstruction Inquiry Into Trump by Sept. 1, Giuliani Says

The New York Times logo The New York Times 5/20/2018 By Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman
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WASHINGTON — The special counsel plans to finish by Sept. 1 its investigation into whether President Trump obstructed the Russia inquiry, according to the president’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, who said on Sunday that waiting any longer would risk improperly influencing voters in the midterm elections in November.

The office of the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, shared its timeline about two weeks ago amid negotiations over whether Mr. Trump will be questioned by investigators, Mr. Giuliani said in an interview. A spokesman for the special counsel’s office declined to comment.

Mr. Giuliani’s comments were an apparent attempt to publicly pressure Mr. Mueller amid their interview negotiations. He urged that the investigation be wrapped up as soon as possible, pointing as a cautionary tale to the revelation by the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey in the last days of the 2016 presidential race that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server. Mr. Comey’s announcement is widely blamed by Democrats for costing her the election. The F.B.I. found no wrongdoing.

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“You don’t want another repeat of the 2016 election where you get contrary reports at the end and you don’t know how it affected the election,” Mr. Giuliani said.

Handing in a report to the Justice Department on his findings in the obstruction case would not signal the end of Mr. Mueller’s work. The obstruction examination is one piece of Mr. Mueller’s broader inquiry, a counterintelligence investigation into Russia’s campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election. Counterintelligence investigations are used to gather information quietly about the activities of foreign powers and their agents — sometimes for years — and can result in criminal charges.

Mr. Giuliani sought to frame the outcome of the obstruction investigation as pitting the credibility of one man against another: Mr. Trump vs. Mr. Comey. The president asked Mr. Comey in the early days of the administration to end the investigation into his first national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, according to contemporaneous memos and congressional testimony by Mr. Comey. The president’s request is one of the main episodes Mr. Mueller is examining to determine whether Mr. Trump had criminal intent to obstruct the Russia investigation.

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 05: Latest appointee to President Donald Trump's legal team and former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani speaks at the Conference on Iran on May 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. Over one thousand delegates from representing Iranian communities from forty states attends the Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights and Democracy. © Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 05: Latest appointee to President Donald Trump's legal team and former Mayor of New York City Rudy Giuliani speaks at the Conference on Iran on May 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. Over one thousand delegates from representing Iranian communities from forty states attends the Iran Freedom Convention for Human Rights and Democracy.

“We want the concentration of this to be on Comey versus the president’s credibility, and I think we win that and people get that,” Mr. Giuliani said, adding that he also hoped that the Justice Department would open a criminal investigation into Mr. Comey for perjury and for his role in the sharing of information cited in New York Times reports last year about his encounters with the president that prompted Mr. Mueller’s appointment.

The president, Mr. Giuliani said, wants the report to be made public. His comments echoed tweets by Mr. Trump hours earlier, when he complained that a prolonged inquiry would hurt Republicans in the midterms.

Mr. Giuliani said that he and Mr. Mueller’s office were still hammering out the terms of an interview with the president. He portrayed his client as a willing interview subject, saying that in the president’s view, no evidence exists that his associates coordinated with Russia’s election interference.

Mr. Giuliani said that an interview would be a distraction for the president and that the amount of preparation required meant that the president could not sit for questioning until after the scheduled summit meeting between Mr. Trump and the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un, on June 12 in Singapore. Based on that schedule, Mr. Giuliani said, the president could be questioned around Independence Day.

Michael S. Schmidt reported from Washington, and Maggie Haberman from New York.

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