President Donald Trump’s legal team has met with and sent memos to special counsel Robert Mueller arguing that Trump did not obstruct justice when he abruptly fired James Comey as FBI director in May, The Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday, citing people familiar with the matter.
In one June memo, Trump’s lawyers reportedly argued that the president has full authority, granted by the Constitution, to hire or fire whomever he wants, and therefore did not obstruct justice.
Another memo expressed doubt that Comey would be a reliable witness, accusing him of being prone to exaggeration, providing unreliable congressional testimony, and leaking information to reporters, according to the Journal.
In response, White House special counsel Ty Cobb told the newspaper that the Trump administration has “great respect for the special counsel.”
“Out of respect for his process we will not be discussing incremental responses,” Cobb said.
Mueller and his team are investigating potential collusion between Trump’s presidential campaign and Russian operatives during the 2016 election. The memos and meetings between Trump’s legal team and the special counsel are the first glimpse into the sweeping, secretive investigation since Mueller was appointed by the Department of Justice following Comey’s firing.
According to the Journal, Mueller did not respond to the memo that declared Trump had not obstructed justice by firing Comey, nor did he respond to the argument questioning Comey’s reliability as a witness.
One legal expert told the Journal that such interactions between Trump’s legal team and Mueller were not out of the ordinary.
“Your objective is to find out what they’ve got and get ahead of them,” Julie Rose O’Sullivan, a Georgetown Law professor who worked on the independent counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton’s Whitewater scandal, told the Journal. “You definitely want some contact so you get a sense of where it’s going and take their temperature.”