DAVID GREENE, HOST:
President Trump's legal team has sent a letter to special counsel Robert Mueller with a counter offer for a possible presidential interview as part of the Russia investigation. This is the latest in long-running negotiations between the two sides. President Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, tells NPR that the latest offer may be Mueller's, quote, "last, best chance" to secure Trump's testimony. Giuliani gave that message to NPR's Ryan Lucas in an interview yesterday. And Ryan is with us this morning. Hey there, Ryan.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning, David.
GREENE: All right. So what exactly did Giuliani tell you here?
LUCAS: Well, he wouldn't get into specifics of what he and the president's other lawyers have proposed in their letter to the special counsel. We know that generally they want to narrow the scope of any potential interview. But Giuliani called this offer a serious one, meaning that if Mueller's folks agree to it, then they could sit down and get this done. Giuliani also told me that this may be, you know, Mueller's last, best chance to get Trump's testimony - although not in the sense that this is a final offer, but more that there isn't a lot more room for them to negotiate as they see this.
GREENE: Oh, I see. So maybe there's another offer, but it's not going to change much, is what Giuliani says.
LUCAS: Right. Right. And these talks have been going on for a very long time, for months now. The stakes are very high. So it shouldn't be a surprise that this takes a lot of time. Now, if the two sides can't work out terms, there is the possibility that Mueller could subpoena the president to compel him to testify. Giuliani argued that Mueller would lose that battle. There are a lot of legal experts out there who disagree with that assessment. They say that in a subpoena fight, the law is on Mueller's side and that he would likely prevail.
GREENE: Whoever prevails, I mean, if a subpoena fight could take a long time, like, months, would the president and his legal team want to wait that out and let this keep - thing keep lingering?
LUCAS: Well, if they feel that they can win that fight, I think that they probably would. And they may also view a protracted legal battle as something that actually plays to their advantage. They could try to paint a legitimate subpoena and court process as another example of what they claim is a witch hunt out to get the president.
GREENE: So I mean, if you're suggesting maybe it's not the end of the world if this battle over, you know, these negotiations keep going on, I mean, when do both sides suggest that there might be (laughter) some decision? Is there any timeline at all?
LUCAS: Well, Giuliani is - well, and the president and the president's legal team are - they're certainly putting pressure on Mueller to try to force his hand somehow. Giuliani says that they do not want this issue to bleed into the midterm election campaign - possibly have a negative impact there. But the fact that this is in the open at all is part of this very public push from Giuliani and the president to try to pressure Mueller to bring the whole investigation to a close. And this discussion also plays into public perceptions.
As for Mueller, he is known for running a very tight shop that doesn't leak. There's been no comment from them. But Mueller is known for being meticulous, for being dogged. People who know him say he's going to do what he thinks is necessary to conduct this investigation fully and fairly and get the answers that he needs.
GREENE: Does the president want to testify?
LUCAS: The president has said publicly that he does want to testify. Giuliani says that that still stands. Giuliani said that he and his other lawyers are less enthusiastic about this idea. They'd like to see the scope limited. Giuliani says he doesn't think Trump would agree to testify over his lawyers' objections. But ultimately, that decision lies with the president.
GREENE: And briefly, do we know what Mueller wants to know from the president if this happens?
LUCAS: There are a lot of - (laughter) lot of questions.
GREENE: Well, probably a lot (laughter).
LUCAS: (Laughter) Questions about contacts between members of the Trump campaign and Russia, possible coordination with Moscow's interference operation during the 2016 election. One notable example of such contacts is that meeting in Trump Tower in June 2016 with a Russian lawyer who was offering dirt on Hillary Clinton. And there are questions about Trump's response to the Russia investigation, chief among them his firing of former FBI director James Comey. These are questions that get more to the idea of possible obstruction of justice.
GREENE: NPR's Ryan Lucas, who covers the Justice Department for us. Ryan, thanks.
LUCAS: Thank you.
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