The special counsel Robert Mueller’s team has told President Donald Trump’s lawyers that they believe they can’t indict a sitting president, Trump’s new lead attorney Rudy Giuliani told CNN on Wednesday.
“All they get to do is write a report,” Giuliani told CNN. “They can’t indict. At least they acknowledged that to us after some battling, they acknowledged that to us.”
Giuliani cited longstanding Justice Department policy that has been in place since the Nixon administration, which stipulates that sitting presidents cannot be indicted as it would hinder the executive branch from “accomplishing its constitutional functions” in a way that cannot “be justified by an overriding need.”
But Giuliani added that the issue was “bigger” than mere Justice Department precedent.
“We think it’s a constitutional rule, but I don’t think you’re ever going to confront that because nobody’s ever going to indict a sitting president,” Giuliani said. “So, what does that leave them with? That leaves them with writing a report.”
Mueller’s team declined to comment to CNN, but Giuliani is not the only one to make that argument in recent days. The deputy attorney general, Rod Rosenstein, also recently weighed in on the matter earlier in May, telling an audience at the Freedom Forum Institute that longstanding Justice Department precedent has held that sitting presidents cannot be indicted.
“The Department of Justice has in the past, when the issue arose, has opined that a sitting president cannot be indicted,” Rosenstein said. “There’s been a lot of speculation in the media about this, I just don’t have anything more to say about it.”
Legal experts have also deemed it unlikely that Mueller would seek to indict Trump for the same reasons that Giuliani and Rosenstein outlined, but they have also suggested that Mueller’s report could be just as damning to Trump as an indictment.
For instance, a report could help propel certain lawmakers’ beliefs that Trump should be removed from office. And if the report is released to the public — which Rosenstein must decide — that pressure could only increase.
Giuliani also told CNN that he was using Thursday, the one-year anniversary of the start of Mueller’s investigation, to pressure Mueller’s team to disclose the investigation’s costs, and to negotiate a potential interview with Trump that Mueller has sought.
“Do you really need an interview?” Giuliani said. “You’ve got all the facts. You’ve got all the documents. You’ve got all the explanations. We’re happy to tell you they’re not going to change.”